Electric utilities are taking a big step toward a clean energy future by making the smart grid a reality. Think of the smart grid as the internet of our electricity infrastructure—enabling us to monitor the electricity grid in wholly new ways in order to make intelligent, real-time decisions about how we use and distribute electricity. This “welcome to the 21st century” technology is what our nation needs to reliably meet the energy demands of our digital economy while burning fewer fossil fuels. However, a key piece of success is empowering citizens with a greater consciousness of their energy use.
In 2012, President Obama announced a government initiative known as Green Button, which serves as the foundation for giving energy consumers secure access to data about their energy habits. Green Button is modeled after another innovative program known as Blue Button, which gives consumers access to their own personal medical records, and makes it easier to share that data with healthcare providers. The public-private Smart Grid Interoperability Panel helped develop data standards for Green Button to make smart grid energy usage data easy to share and interpret for consumers. Imagine having the ability to download an application to your smart phone that helps you monitor and understand exactly how much it costs to run your washing machine at certain hours of the day, or even how those pricey new solar panels you bought are actually saving you boatloads of money over time. Utility companies across the nation are adopting Green Button to ensure that their customers are ushered into a new age of energy consciousness.
Green Button was officially given its name between two phases of the Department of Energy (DOE) Smart Grid Data Access funding opportunity which challenged utility companies to demonstrate third-party software applications as a way for customers to manage their energy expenditures. During the first phase in 2011, $3.2 million in funds were awarded to seven recipients that contributed an additional $5.7 million of their own capital to give customers easy and secure access to their own energy data. The second phase awarded $2 million last month to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to expand Green Button access to a service area of 1.4 million customers. SDG&E will reach out to new customers and conduct behavioral studies to help build documentation about the program. This will hopefully spark other utilities to adopt the program.
Many of us strive to be environmentally conscious and all of us want to save some money. Green Button helps us kill these two birds with one stone. I encourage anyone reading this to contact their utility companies to see if Green Button is offered in their service area. This offering takes the smart grid to a new level and will help citizens exercise energy-consciousness decisions as we embrace what is turning out to be a remarkable 21st century.