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Green Button: Faster progress than we thought? Opening up energy information for all

22 March 2012
Green Button: Faster progress than we thought? Opening up energy information for all

By Molly Webb, Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group.

March 22, 2012

At Google’s offices in Washington D.C. in April two years ago, 300 people from IT and telecoms sectors listened as then Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner welcomed this letter from 47 businesses and organizations calling for consumers to have easier and timely access to their energy information.  

Having access to energy information lets consumers better manage their energy consumption, but also (and crucially) helps application developers and service providers find new ways of making energy efficiency and renewable power within reach of everyone.

The US Administration hasn’t forgotten their commitments to opening up this data, and recent progress is encouraging. 

First, the White House released a smart grid policy framework in June 201 which called for consumers to have access to their energy information in “consumer-friendly and computer-friendly” formats. 

But given that in the US, each state regulates the utilities – not the Federal government – how would this be operationalized?

The Green Button initiative is what has emerged from subsequent discussions with industry. It is both a standard for accessing energy data, and a voluntary initiative by utilities and other service providers. Utilities that provide the Green Button on their web portals are giving consumers a one-click option for downloading their electricity data. 

 As Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality said: “Green Button will arm millions of Americans with information they can use to lower their energy bills. Innovative tools like these are good for our economy, good for the health of our communities, and an essential part of our approach toward a secure and clean energy future that works for Americans.”

We believe this drives innovation in energy management in ways we cannot imagine yet. A 15% reduction in electricity consumption by 2020 can save consumers $46 billion on energy bills or $360 per customer per year and it is equivalent to 35 million cars off the road. 

But because utilities and service providers need to adopt this voluntarily, we need to keep the momentum going and encourage as many companies as possible to adopt this transparent approach. 

And that's just what's happening at an event today at the White House, where nine utilities have joined a previous six in adopting the Green Button (see full list of commitments and support), to reach over 15 million consumers. See all the announcements planned for today in the White House press release and blog post.

The Climate Group, along with 26 other organizations including Google, BT, HP, Johnson Controls and Tendril, welcomed these announcements today in another letter to the White House.

We do need to do more to open up further, for instance, to provide data about the whole energy mix. But already applications are being developed (see Tendril’s App Gallery and Open EI’s Apps) that are helping consumers, and most of the related privacy issues are being looked at closely.

It really is satisfying to see a simple idea - that initially seemed complicated to implement - starting to make tangible progress. I hope other countries start to follow the US soon!

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