Department of Energy

Green Button: Providing Consumers with Access to Their Energy Data

January 19, 2012

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This article is cross-posted from the White House blog.

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. Today, the Obama Administration is announcing another step forward in solving this problem.

At an event yesterday in California, I announced the launch of the Green Button initiative, an Administration-led effort based on a simple, common-sense goal: provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy usage data in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format via a “Green Button” on electric utilities’ website. With this information in hand, customers can take advantage of innovative energy apps to help them understand their energy usage and find ways to reduce electricity consumption and shrink bills, all while ensuring they retain privacy and security.

Thanks to early adoption by two of California’s largest electrical utilities and numerous innovative companies, roughly six million Americans have access to a Green Button starting today. Over time, as utilities across the Nation join in, that number will grow. And so will the application and software market, providing consumers with increasing insight and useful information into their everyday electricity consumption—as well as ways to take action based on that knowledge.

Here are a few ways that data from Green Button might be put to use:

·         Insight: entrepreneur-created web portals that can analyze energy usage and provide actionable tips;

·         Heating and Cooling: customized heating and cooling activities for savings and comfort;

·         Education: community and student energy-efficiency competitions;

·         Retrofits: improved decision-support tools to facilitate energy-efficiency retrofits;

·         Verification: measurement of energy-efficiency investments;

·         Real Estate: provision of energy costs for tenants and/or new home purchasers; and

·         Solar: optimize the size and cost-effectiveness of rooftop solar panels.

Although inspired by a government challenge to industry, the Green Button uses new consumer- and computer-friendly technology standards that were developed by industry in a consensus process and was supported and accelerated by a public-private partnership, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel. Reiterating the Obama Administration’s interest in partnering with the private sector to accelerate standards development in areas of national interest, the White House today released a memorandum to agencies from Chopra, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro.

Yesterday was a first step for the Green Button initiative. Moving forward, Green Button has the potential to touch every American, and to expand to commercial and industrial consumers.  The Administration looks forward to continuing work with communities, utilities, and businesses across the country as they think about how to best join this growing trend of empowering customers and spurring the energy information economy.

Aneesh Chopra is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer