Would you like to access your energy consumption information with the click of a (green) button? Well, that is exactly what the Green Button initiative aims to do. Green Button is an industry-led effort that responds to a White House call-to-action: provide electricity customers with easy access to their energy usage data in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format via a "Green Button" on electric utilities' website. The hope is that numerous applications will be developed using this Green Button data that will help consumers reduce their energy bills through insight and tips. The US Department of Energy has even announced a $100,000 contest called Apps for Energy to encourage development of innovative apps that use the Green Button data.
In Texas, we already have the Smart Meter Texas portal that is sponsored by a consortium of electric utilities. This site processes information received from your smart meter and provides energy consumption data in 15-minute increments. You can also view your daily and monthly energy consumption to gain an understanding of usage patterns. The Green Button will make this same data accessible in a standard format that can be used on a variety of devices and variety of interfaces developed by 3rd parties. These apps will provide better and more actionable insight than just viewing a chart of your energy usage. Although energy consumption data from the smart meter is sent to the utility several times a day, it takes around 2 days for this data to show up on the Smart Meter Texas portal. This is apparently because the portal has to validate and format the data per certain guidelines before presenting it to consumers. I would imagine that Green Button data would also be subject to similar guidelines and hence have a similar time lag.
This is where In Home Displays such as the SmartLook from Wireless Glue Networks have an edge. These In Home Displays connect wirelessly to your Smart Meter via a ZigBee radio such as CC2520 to collect and display real time energy consumption information. I have a SmartLook In Home Display in my house and it helped me figure out that each of my two air conditioning units costs $0.30/hour when running. Since then, I have re-programmed my thermostats to optimize usage during different times of the day. Many Home Area Network (HAN) devices such as these In Home Displays or load controllers are currently available only through utilities and retail electricity providers. In the future, they will be available through retail settings as well. This will happen sooner in markets such as Texas where consumers already have the capability to commission the device themselves using the Smart Meter Texas portal.
Initiatives such as Green Button, SmartMeterTexas.com, and devices such as In-Home Displays equip consumers with valuable information and enable them to take control of their energy usage. Have you used any of these tools to change your energy consumption habits?
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