How you can change the way San Francisco thinks about energy use

Editor's Note: To learn more learn more about San Francisco's energy challenge join Hack City SF Nov. 9-11.

Residential energy consumption accounts for 20 to 22 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, but little is known about how and when individual households use their energy -- and there is no way to compare household usage based on construction, location or demographic factors.

Initiatives at the federal, state and local levels have tried to gather this data, but they have either produced incomplete datasets or have been too resource-intensive to scale (see here, here and here). And while the advance of the Green Button initiative holds great promise, it only offers electricity data and is only available to a small group of pilot partners. Consumption patterns can be detected, but they are revealed through aggregate data.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment hopes to create a process by which residents can share their energy data. This would enable SFE to make data-driven decisions while investing in programs that are most successful at reducing consumption. Currently there is almost no way of measuring the success or impact of investments. With this data SFE could:

  • Segment houses, blocks or neighborhoods that consume above-average energy and invest in decreasing their consumption with incentives or retrofits
  • Create fun & engaging community energy-efficiency competitions and other innovative programming
  • Target high-use areas and design programs that address specific household needs to reduce energy use and/or increase awareness of consumption

The Challenge: Currently, SFE is not set up to gather, store, or use data. It collects data on individual households through an EnergySavvy Home Profile but does not have the ability to collect or store energy use data. Consumers can download their energy data from their PG&E MyEnergy account, but there is no way for SFE to collect that data and link it to an Energy Profile.

How can we connect downloaded PG&E data with a home energy profile -- and how do you get this information to SFE so the agency can use it to create better programs and policies?

Goal: Create an integrated application that links data collected in the SFE Energy Profile with CSV files downloaded by residents from their PGE MyEnergy accounts and enables SFE to use the data to drive its decision-making. The app should be public-facing, user-friendly and integrate the winning ImproveSF idea to encourage people to share their energy use data.

Find out more about the challenge here.