Administration Announces New Tools to Help Consumers Manage Electricity Use and Shrink Bills

January 18, 2012


Media Contact:
Rick Weiss  (202) 456-6037
Phil Larson (202) 456-6043

Administration Announces New Tools to Help Consumers Manage Electricity Use and Shrink Bills

SANTA CLARA, CA – Today, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh 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 today’s announcements, two of California’s three largest utilities—Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric—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 (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, who also serves as Associate Director of Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “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.”

Chopra was joined by Administration officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who celebrated the launch of Green Button at a Silicon Valley Leadership Group event that also featured utility CIOs and entrepreneurs from leading smart grid, energy efficiency, and solar financing companies.

Among the related announcements made at the event:

  1. San Diego Gas & Electric executives described the AT&T San Diego Apps Challenge, in which software developers are being challenged to use city and partner data—including Green Button energy-use data—to create applications that enhance public services and improve quality of life for San Diegans. Winners of the competition will split a total of $50,000 in prize money donated by challenge sponsors AT&T, San Diego Gas & Electric, CONNECT and CleanTech San Diego.
  2. Private-sector vendors described new “Upload Your Green Button Data Here” websites and applications that will help consumers track and manage their energy use and save money, and one vendor announced plans to open an online Green Button “app store.” (The Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory also plan to highlight Green Button apps on their energy information portal.)
  3. The North American Energy Standards Board, which developed the data standard on which the Green Button is based, said it would make a “startup kit” available to help app developers, students, and others take full advantage of Green Button.

Secure customer access to electronic energy usage information is a key part of the Obama Administration’s Policy Framework for a 21st Century Grid, launched at a White House event in June 2011. That was followed in November by the Department of Energy’s announcement of up to $8 million in prizes and funding for innovative applications that help consumers understand and control their energy use.

“Providing consumers with easy access to data on their energy consumption can help give them the tools they need to make informed decisions about their energy use,” Secretary Chu said then.  “Developing applications and services to help consumers understand and control their energy use is a field ripe for American innovation.” 

Chopra had already challenged the utility industry in September 2011 to enable consumers to download their detailed energy usage—a challenge inspired by the successful launch last year of a similar tool that allows consumers to view their personal health data and print their personal health records for sharing with other doctors or family members. That “Blue Button” tool, developed initially for the Veterans Administration, has helped more than 500,000 veterans, Medicare beneficiaries, and active-duty personnel download their health information and is available today to more than 80 million Americans. 

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. That approach is consistent with the one described in the National Science and Technology Council report, Federal Engagement in Standards Activities to Address National Priorities, released in November 2011.


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