The installation of advanced metering infrastructure is helping to transform the U.S. utility industry. While over 43 million advanced meters have been installed, most electricity consumers have seen few benefits from the new device on their property. Recently, the government has been making an effort to improve the accessibility of data from advanced meters.
The Green Button Initiative is an industry-led effort developed in response to the federal call-to-action to provide utility customers with easy and secure access to their electricity usage data in a user-friendly format. A key focus of Green Button is standardizing electricity usage data; this will allow many stakeholders to use the data without the burden of converting proprietary formats. Energy consumers, third-party software/application developers, public institutions, energy efficiency organizations, and utilities/energy service providers will all benefit from increased visibility of detailed electricity consumption data.
Developers of software and applications to help consumers understand and reduce their electricity consumption may have the most to gain. Many advanced systems to manage energy use in buildings are already in operation; these will only be improved by easy access to more granular data from utilities. Some solutions that can take advantage of this newly available data are discussed in Navigant Research’s report, Building Energy Management Systems.
Tip of the Iceberg
Despite successful programs with many utilities, the Green Button Initiative has only scratched the surface of its full potential. To date, at least 50 utilities have implemented the program, with a few dozen more committed. Among the participating utilities, the amount of data available and the support provided to customers varies greatly. In fact, some utilities are only providing monthly meter readings to their customers through Green Button. This information has generally been available to customers online for years, and it does not provide enough new detail to enable many behavioral changes.
What’s more, many utilities are not actively promoting the availability of this data or helping their customers understand how to interpret the information. Further collaboration between utilities and industry stakeholders is required, and a more developed app marketplace will be crucial to Green Button’s success.
A major focus of the Green Button Initiative is to facilitate the development of third-party software programs and applications that use utility data to provide consumers with an easily understandable view of their consumption. One interesting application is wotz, developed by a group of graduate students at the University of California, Irvine. This application runs in a web browser and provides a simple to use, graphically pleasing interface to view and understand energy consumption over time.
Wotz relates household electricity use to more easily understood terms, such as a certain number of MacBook charges. The program also includes challenges with guidance to reduce consumption over time and can be connected with Facebook to share results and benchmark against friends.
Another program utilizing Green Button-based data takes the idea of benchmarking and social media-based energy competitions even further. Simple Energy, based in Boulder, Colorado, has a similar program with easy visualization and also features a community leaderboard that allows users to see how they stack up with their neighbors – as well as electricity consumers around the world.
Tags: Advanced Metering Infrastructure, Building Systems, Digital Utility Strategies, Smart Buildings Program, Smart Meters
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