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“Green Button” Tool Makes Saving Electricity Easier

Article courtesy of NREL News

Thirty-one million American homes will be getting computer-friendly data about their electricity use from their utility companies, thanks to the work of NREL and a nudge from the White House.

The new consumer tool is called Green Button, and customers can link to it from their utility companies' portals. Green Button, based on exacting standards, helps consumers make informed purchase decisions and adjust electricity use to save both energy and money.

The Green Button initiative's main goal is to simplify energy data access for consumers. The federal government is encouraging utility companies to give consumers the ability to easily access and share their own energy use information for insight into how best to manage their consumption.

Green Button is an example of the government encouraging industry to accelerate the adoption of a standard, rather than issuing a federal mandate. The goal is better-educated energy consumers—which can be good news for both the planet and consumers' bank accounts.

NREL Helped Develop Standards

NREL was integral to the development of the standards for Green Button, as well as a consistent way to report the data. NREL's Scott Crowder noted that the lab-developed OpenEI.org provides a place for application developers to make their Green Button apps available.

Once logged into the utility's website, customers see a Green Button icon. Customers click the button to download their personal energy use data in the common format defined by the Energy Service Provider Interface standard, which was developed jointly by industry and government. To learn more about the data, they upload it to any of several Green Button apps. Future versions of the standard will allow customers to set up a secure subscription so they will no longer have to manually transfer the data from the utility to their favorite apps.

Many of the apps on OpenEI came by way of DOE's recent "Apps for Energy" challenge, intended to spur app developers to come up with tools to help define energy-saving strategies.

Thanks to the initiative, the number of Green Button applications housed on OpenEI skyrocketed from six to more than 60, said Monisha Shah, who is on assignment with the White House to help promote Green Button. Innovation spurs innovation, and the number of apps is expected to continue to grow.