Want an Energy Efficient Home? Push the Green Button

Want more control over electrical use in your home?  The Green Button Initiative might be the answer. “Imagine being able to shrink your utility bill, or knowing the optimal size and cost-effectiveness of solar panels for your home, or verifying that energy-efficiency retrofit investments have successfully paid for themselves over time” said Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer for the United States.  “Far too often these and similarly important — and potentially money-saving — opportunities are unavailable to us.  Why?  Because consumers haven’t had standard, routine, easy-to-understand access to their own energy usage data.”

To help achieve that goal, the Obama Administration recently announced a major step forward in solving this problem.  According to Chopra, “I announced the launch of the Green Button initiative, an Administration-led effort based on a simple, common-sense goal: 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.  With this information in hand, customers can take advantage of innovative energy apps to help them understand their energy usage and find ways to reduce electricity consumption and shrink bills, all while ensuring they retain privacy and security.”

Access to household energy use data is key to helping consumers conserve energy and save money. Because Green Button is available to everyone, it is already driving innovation among website and software developers interested in using that standard to provide innovative services –  from information about how to save energy or choose appropriately sized solar panels to fun Facebook apps.  Additionally, the Green Button is likely to support a new generation of interactive thermostats and virtual energy audits that will recommend retrofits that will improve efficiency in homes and businesses.

“Green Button marks the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money,” Chopra said.  “With the benefits of open data standards, American 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.”

Writing for the View on Energy blog, Jeanne Roberts says that “What it means for consumers is a way to monitor and take charge of their home energy use, via computer technology, and hopefully to lower monthly utility bills as a result. In short, a little bit of ‘green’ technology that could allow consumers to save a lot of green if used wisely.  As an added advantage, energy use reduction nationwide by residential consumers could help the nation reach Obama’s stated goals of energy security (by reducing dependence on oil) and energy efficiency, both of which lead to a ‘clean’ energy future.”

Philip Henderson of has an interesting take on the Green Button after perusing his difficult-to-read electric bill.  “If my bill were entered in a Worst Utility Bill contest, it probably would not win — I’ve seen some that are worse.  This is NOT to denigrate my utility company — it is a power company, after all, not a design shop.  This is why the ‘Green Button Project’ is so interesting and important.  It’s based on a simple concept — give the customer his or her utility billing information in a form that actually usable.  Click a green button on the utility’s website and billing data is delivered and can be used by various apps.  With my data, I will be able to use any billing presentation system I want — I can find the one that suits me best.  (Can’t you hear the iPhone developers tapping away to create cool new tools?)”