Out of sight, out of mind — that’s how most Americans seem to feel about their energy usage, until the utility bill appears. The key to smaller bills for consumers, greater efficiencies for utilities and reduced carbon emissions for the nation as a whole appears to lie in better, clearer, real-time information on home energy usage, along with smart strategies for reducing consumption (and even automating those strategies). Welcome to the era of home energy management tech.
In recent years, it seems, everyone from GE to Google has been jumping on the home energy management bandwagon, but with mixed results. While plenty of people want to save on their energy bills, few, it seems have been willing to make using Web-based applications like the Google PowerMeter or the Microsoft Hohm part of their everyday lives. As Steven Castle points out, this technology is brand new. But in this age of ubiquitous, instantaneous information — via text alerts, the web, etc. — doesn’t it seem outdated to only have access to our energy usage data on paper, and to always receive it a month late?
The White House appears to agree. Last September, United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra issued a challenge to utilities across the country to develop a tool to provide consumers with timely access to their own energy data with the click of a single button online. Now he’s backing up that challenge with the Green Button initiative, an administration-led effort with the goal of providing citizens from sea to shining sea with easy access to their energy usage data in a “consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format” via a “Green Button” on electric utilities’ websites.
Among the utilities rising to that challenge are the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Pacific Gas and Electric Company — the California companies are the first in the nation to implement a Green Button (Southern California Edison is backing the effort, too, and said it will be buttoned up before the end of the year). Which means that these utilities’ customers now have access to, yes, a Green Button — i.e., a link available in the customer’s online account portal that provides detailed information on when they use electricity, and how much.