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in other words: Green Button

Posted by Lester Shen  |  Date April 6, 2012  |  Comments 0

in other words will be a regular feature of i.e. Every couple of weeks, we will take a closer look at current events and trends in energy, ground them in relevant data and context, and offer our insight about their potential impacts and implications. We look forward to your input and feedback.

On March 22, the U.S. Department of energy announced that nine major utilities and electricity suppliers had committed to the “Green Button” initiative. Basically, consumers will be able to download their energy use data from their participating utility’s website by literally clicking on an online “Green Button.” The data will be provided in a consumer- and computer-friendly format. Companies like Belkin, EnergySavvy, and Lucid are already planning web and mobile device applications and services for both consumers and businesses based on this industry data standard.

We are extremely excited about the potential of this initiative and anticipate its adoption by Minnesota utilities. It will greatly enhance our energy programs for residential consumers and businesses.
Actual usage data is extremely valuable in demonstrating the need for energy efficiency actions and for assessing energy savings.

The Green Button will be useful to Community Energy Services (CES), our comprehensive residential program that we’ve been delivering for the last two-and-a-half years.  The program is designed to help homeowners develop good energy habits, install efficient energy products (like high-efficiency showerheads), and make good energy investments (Iike insulation).  We find that providing homeowners with their energy usage, compared to that of similar homes, helps to set the standard for reasonably achievable energy savings.  

Currently, when we come to the door with the CES program, we like to provide a "Home Energy Snapshot" to display this information. However, it can take up to a month to get this information from utilities; the process includes providing utilities with the proper authorization and waivers, etc. So quicker access to this information (directly from the homeowner) will enable us to provide the snapshot right away, an incredible value to homeowners participating in CES.  They will be able to place the detailed information our energy counselors and technicians provide about their home in the context of their past energy bills, then compare their performance to similar homes. We can use annual monthly data to help homeowners understand how they use energy through the seasons. More finely detailed data from smart meters will enable us to identify specific appliance or usage recommendations.

The Green Button will also facilitate the reporting of energy use by commercial, governmental and industrial facilities.  In many of these buildings, the billing information is routed to the accounting department for payment and is never seen by the facility staff that is charged with managing the energy use of the building.  It becomes a major undertaking to get copies of bills in order to record usage information which is generally the building block on which all efficiency efforts are measured. Not only will the Green Button make the utility readings easily accessible for facility managers, it will allow the manager to put into practice the concept that “if you can measure it, you can manage it.”  Downloading several months of information with the Green Button is quick and easy, which will allow the manager to use this information as standard quarterly business performance reporting.  

We look forward to further adoption of the Green Button initiative by Minnesota utilities. Hopefully it will provide homeowner and building managers access to both electricity and natural gas usage. With greater penetration of smart grid technologies, soon homeowners and building managers will have a level of understanding of their energy use to make significant and long-lasting energy savings.

Contributing Authors: Carl Nelson, Christopher Plum, and Anna Jursik


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