“Imagine being able to shrink your utility bill, or knowing the optimal size and cost-effectiveness of solar panels for your home, or verifying that energy-efficiency retrofit investments have successfully paid for themselves over time. Far too often these and similarly important—and potentially money-saving—opportunities are unavailable to us. Why? Because consumers haven’t had standard, routine, easy-to-understand access to their own energy usage data,” stated Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer in a follow up Energy.gov blog post to the Obama Administration’s January 18, 2012 announcement of the “Green Button” program.
Chopra joined utility and technology executives in Silicon Valley to announce several new online tools that will allow consumers in California and other states to download their household energy use information and help them save energy and money.
Central to the announcement, two of California’s three largest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) —launched “Green Button,” a new feature on their websites that will let nearly six million households representing about 17 million electricity consumers download their own detailed energy usage information with a simple click of a button. In addition, Southern California Edison (SCE- California’s second largest utility), Glendale Water & Power, Oncor, Pepco Holdings Inc, and several other utilities across the country that collectively serve an additional 11.3 million households also plan to make the feature available later this year.
Access to data on household energy use is crucial to helping consumers conserve energy and save money. And because Green Button is designed around an open data standard that is available to all, it is already spurring a burst of innovation among website and software developers interested in using that standard to provide novel services—from information about how to save energy or choose appropriately sized solar panels to fun apps that allow individuals to compete against Facebook friends to save energy. The Green Button is also expected to support a new generation of interactive thermostats and virtual energy audits that will recommend energy-efficiency retrofit improvements for homes and businesses.
“Green Button marks the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money,” said Chopra. “With the benefits of open data standards, American app developers and other innovators can apply their creativity to bring the smart grid to life for families—not only in California but in communities all across the Nation."
In her TechCrunch, “White House Pushes Green Button To Liberate Your Energy Data” piece date 2.5.12, Matylda Czarneckam wrote, “The interesting aspect isn’t so much in the download itself, but what can be done with it. Federal officials hope this kind of data liberation will inspire developers to build apps and services that will help customers track and reduce their energy consumption. One study showed that subjects who were given access to their data reduced their usage by 8.7% just by tracking it. At scale, this could mean an annual savings of $32 billion per year on the country’s annual $369 billion power bill.
The Green Button was inspired by the government’s success with its Blue Button initiative, which allows veterans instant access to their health care data.”
“This is great news for the solar industry because the private sector has been increasingly investing in renewable energy financing making solar photovoltaics (PV) available to more households than ever before,” said HelioPower northern California-based energy consultant Paul Van Straatum. Paul is helping homeowners in the PG&E area use the Green Button to determine their energy usage and savings with solar.
“The days of helplessly paying the utility bills that only seem to grow larger by the month are finally over. The knowledge and the solution are now both readily available and the Green Button program helps consumers understand their energy usage which is critical to going solar with confidance,” said Straatum.
How to Use My PG&E ‘Green Button’
Here are Paul’s instructions that he uses to help his PG&E area customers access their electrical usage using the new Green Button.
(Editor's note: On 1.27.12 Aneesh Chopra announced his resignation as reported by the Washington Post.)
Helpful links available as of blog post date:
White House Announcement, “Administration Announces New Tools to Help Consumers Manage Electricity Use and Shrink Bills”:
White House Green Button Information: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/21/empowering-customers-green-button
Grid Week video announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZIkzRXJl38&feature=related
Pacific Gas & Electric Green Button page: http://www.pge.com/myhome/myaccount/using/thegreenbutton/
San Diego Gas & Electric Green Button Information: http://sdge.com/newsroom/press-releases/2012-01-18/sdge-launches-%E2%80%9Cgreen-button%E2%80%9D-customer-energy-usage-data-tool
ASE.Org, “Green Button” to Help Consumers Understand Energy Use”: http://ase.org/efficiencynews/%E2%80%9Cgreen-button%E2%80%9D-help-consumers-understand-energy-use