Cleantech: Press-to! Change-o! Green Button

By Published On: August 10, 2012

“Smart” meter data is finally becoming accessible to consumers who can share it with third-party companies for analysis and controlling energy using devices. So far, two state investor-owned electric utilities--San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric--are making the information available under the federally-sponsored Green Button program. Southern California Edison is expected to start the Green Button program before year end. Developed by utilities and “smart” grid technology companies working with the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards & Technology, the program allows electric utility customers to access their energy usage data via a green button on utility websites. Green Button uses open access standards allowing utility customers to share data with software developers and other entrepreneurs for purposes of analysis and, perhaps, eventual remote control of energy-use. For these third parties, Green Button is intended to aggregate a sufficiently large market of consumers to support applications to help utility customers make the most of data. “It’s enabled by the smart meter,” explained Erin Collers, SDG&E spokesperson. SDG&E customers can go to the utility website to sign up. It provides 13 months of meter energy data in hourly or 15 minute increments. Customers can choose to share the data with a wide variety of application developers, such as WattzOn, which offers a free application with tools to compare energy use and bills to similar homes and create a personalized plan to save and track energy use. SDG&E is one of five utilities nationwide that so far has actually implemented the Green Button program. To stimulate development of applications to help customers use Green Button data, SDG&E held a contest earlier this year to award the coolest energy use app. On July 2, it awarded XNERGY--submitted by Suhail Wakil--as the best app for making use of Green Button data. Wakil’s app displays energy usage in the whole home on a smart phone and also breaks energy use down by appliance or energy using device in the home. “This kind of helps for self-realization of energy consumption,” he said. For instance, he said that when a customer actually sees how much power a computer left on may consume it’s likely they may choose to turn it off when not in use or adjust the power management program to reduce usage.

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