Back in August, when I met with White House CTO Aneesh Chopra, he discussed his vision for liberating energy data. The next month he met with three major California utilities to advance that vision via the Green Button Initiative: a challenge to the smart grid ecosystem to provide customers with electronic access to their energy usage information.
Yesterday, during a technical workshop at the California Public Utilities Commission Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric announced that they would not only implement this concept — they plan to have it up and running by the end of 2011.
That’s less than three weeks from today — and just four months after accepting Chopra’s challenge. What does it mean?…
When it goes live, a green button will appear on websites of these California utilities. Customers will be able to log in and view their detailed electricity usage data (down to one-hour or 15-minute increments). By clicking the green button, they also can download up to 13 months of their data to a file on their computer.
Customers could analyze this data in a spreadsheet. But probably most customers would prefer to use a third-party app to analyze their energy data and provide energy saving suggestions — such as” “Save $XX per year by replacing your refrigerator” or “Save $YY per year by switching to a time-of-use rate.”
Some customers might also want to forward their data to energy service companies that provide enhanced services.
Why does Chopra want to “liberate” data?
Energy data is one key to realizing multi-billion-dollar benefits from smart meters and the smart grid. The other keys are pricing choices and smart devices (thermostats, appliances, building lighting controls, solar power inverters, electric vehicle chargers, etc.).
Pilot programs have shown that when consumers can easily access their energy data, they can cut their electricity consumption by an average of 8.7% — simply from better understanding and managing their usage. That translates to a gross savings of $32 billion per year on the total U.S. $369 billion annual power bill.
In a blog post, White House Senior Advisor Nick Sinai suggested more ways to put consumer energy data to use:
- Heating and cooling.Customize thermostats for savings and comfort.
- Education.Community and student energy efficiency competitions.
- Retrofits.Better decision-support tools to facilitate energy efficiency retrofits.
- Verification.Measure structural energy efficiency investments such as adding insulation or changing out windows.
- Real estate.Forecast energy costs for tenants or new home buyers.
- Solar. Optimize the size of rooftop solar panels.
Meanwhile, in Europe, leaders also recognize how energy data can help make our economy more efficient, our environment more sustainable, and our lives more convenient and fulfilling.
Yesterday, the European Commission announced a new open data strategy for Europe, which is expected to deliver a €40 billion ($53 billion) annual boost to the EU economy.
According to the European Commission, Europe is sitting on a goldmine of unrealized economic potential: the large volume of data (including energy data) collected by numerous public authorities and services. Member states such as the U.K. and France are already starting to realize this value.
The new Digital Agenda strategy aims to boost performance across the EU. It has three main parts:
- The European Commission will lead by example, opening its vaults of information to the public for free through a new data portal.
- Establishing a level playing field for open data across the EU. This will give companies in different countries and different industries an equal chance to compete to provide consumers with enhanced services utilizing energy data.
- Providing €100 million ($133 million) in research funding for these measures through 2013 for better data-handling technologies.
Similarly, eMeter and other companies are launching data analytic applications that will enable utilities to turn smart meter data into operating efficiencies and other benefits.
What’s next for Green Button? Check back in a couple of months, and we’ll update you on several cool new apps and services that could turn consumer energy data into at least a small bit of gold.