Intelligent Energy

Calling all app developers! 27 million utility customers need help

Posting in Design

Nine utilities have joined Green Button, a White House program that allows customers to download detailed energy-use information. Now what to do with all that data? App developers, we need you.

A growing number of utilities and smart grid vendors have signed onto Green Button -- the White House-Energy Department program that's pushing for a simple, universal format that allows electricity customers to access their energy usage data. This week, nine utilities committed to providing Green Button to its customers.

Green Button, which launched in January, was designed around an open standard to encourage innovation among website and software developers. Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric were early adopters and agreed to install the new feature on their websites, giving nearly six million households the ability to download their own detailed energy use information. It appears that folks want the data. PG&E said this week there have been 220,000 downloads since it added the Green Button feature.

Counting the new additions, about 27 million utility customers will soon be able to download their energy use data by clicking on the "Green Button" icon on the utilities' websites. Data is the first step. Transforming that data into a tool that will change energy consumption and users' behaviors is the end goal. And the Energy Department is counting on app developers to help consumers make sense of all that data.

The White House and Energy Department announced this week an Apps for Energy contest, challenging software developers to build new apps for mobile phones, computers, tablets and software program based on Green Button data to help customers use less energy and save money.

The Energy Department-sponsored contest will begin April 5 and is offering $100,000 in cash prizes. The department will release the official rules the same day. Submissions can be any kind of software application. The contest ends May 15. The public can participate by submitting ideas for apps to apps@hq.doe.gov. The best app ideas will be feature on the Energy.gov and used to inspired developers who are participating in the competition.

A number of companies including Schneider-Electric, Belkin and startups Simple Energy and FirstFuel have announced they are developing applications or services for businesses and consumers using the Green Button. Smart grid vendor companies that work with utilities including Itron, OPower, Silver Spring Networks and Oracle also have announced their support for Green Button. Tendril has already implemented the Green Button technology and launched GreenButtonConnect.com that aims to give consumers a positive first experience with the program. The website allows users to download the Green Button through an app gallery, which was recently relaunched with a new design.

Photo: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure