Calif. Utilities Embrace Green Button Project to Unleash Energy Data

California's largest utilities have launched a "Green Button" feature to let consumers download their own detailed energy usage information. The project, championed by U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra, standardizes the deliver of household energy data and is seen as a catalyst to create an ecosystem for app developers to produce new services and products.

Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric announced they're delivering Green Button data to about 6 million California customers. Additional utilities, including Southern Calfornia Edison, Glendale Power & Light, Oncor, Pepco Holdings Inc, and others plan to roll out services to customers later this year. Together these utilities serve over 17 million households.

Chopra is widely recognized as an IT innovator in government and challenged the utility industry to develop access to consumer data in September 2011.

"Green Button marks the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money,” said Chopra, who also serves as associate director of Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “With the benefits of open data standards, app developers and other innovators can apply their creativity to bring the smart grid to life for families – not only in California but in communities all across the nation."

The Green Button is modeled on the government's Blue Button initiative, developed initially for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to enable 500,000 veterans, medicare beneficiaries, and active-duty personnel access their personal healthcare data to share with doctors and caregivers.

As a way to standardize the format and delivery of consumer energy data, the Green Button project allows third-party vendors to launch applications and platforms to make use of the data.

Tendril, makes of a smart energy platforms, announced it will natively support Green Button and launched an online application gallery. With the release of a developer website and sandbox earlier this month, Tendril wants to connect utiltiies and energy service providers with developers creating customer energy management applications.

For customers of PG&E and SDG&E , users can download the past 13 months of their energy data in a easy-to-read  format for evaluation and analysis. The utilities hope such access to information will spur the development of innovative energy management programs.

"The Green Button exemplifies SDG&E's move from the monthly bill cycle to accessible meaningful data," said Ted Reguly, SDG&E's Director of Customer Programs and Assistance. "With customers in charge of how the information is used, we anticipate the data will be used in ways we haven't even thought of yet."

In an interview with the media, Chopra gave significant credit to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in spurring the state’s big utilities to comply with rulings on privacy, security, and access to data thus paving the way for the Green Button launch. With standardized access to consumer data, Chopra believes the project will create a healthy, competitive marketplace for third-party vendors to develop energy applications.

"Everyone's gonna learn from each other and I see this market evolving at Internet speed, which is the exciting part about it," said Chopra.