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Published by BRE Trust

Green Button scheme helps consumers control energy use

24/4/2012

Californian utility giants sign up to give customers easy access to their energy data. Mads Jensen reports

Californians can now monitor their energy usage with a click of a button. That’s due to the Green Button programme, which was launched in January 2012 with two of California’s largest utilities on board: Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, which together serve more than 6 million customers.

Green Button is an industry-led response to President Obama’s electricity management initiative. The White House issued a call to action last September to provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy data. Based on a developing standard called Open Automated Data Exchange (OpenADE), Green Button uses the data to serve up CSV (comma separated values) files to customers which can be exported and manipulated as the customer wishes.

National reach

The US federal government wants to make the scheme national to give customers across the country the ability to optimise the cost and size of their solar photovoltaics, verify the efficiency of their energy retrofit investments, and so on. California has demanded that its big three utilities start sharing information with their customers right away.

In addition to this online format, several companies are already working on iPhone/iPad apps, smartphone interfaces, and other web applications that would serve up Green Button data in different formats to offer even more functionality as well as energy efficiency tips, information on whether solar would be cost-effective for that particular consumer, and more.

Green Button apps

For instance, Opower, a company that provides energy efficiency tips to 60 million utilities customers, is working with Facebook to develop an app that will let them compete to save the most energy based on Green Button data.

According to the White House, this technology will soon be adopted by utilities in other states as well. So far, 15 utilities have signed up to the Green Button Initiative, although many have yet to implement the programme for their customers. Its success will depend largely on the overall industry adoption of the practice, though the programme looks promising.

Mads Jensen is co-founder and chief executive of sustainable building software company, Sefaira. This article first appeared on the Sefaira website.

Sources and links

US Office of Science and Technology Policy blog : Modelling a green energy challenge after a blue button

Gigaom.com: The state of open source for the smart grid

YouTube video: Green Button demo at Grid-Interop 2011

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