After last night’s Al Green-less State of the Union address, I thought now would be a good as time as ever to help spread the word about an exciting, potentially game-changing development from the Obama administration called the Green Button Initiative.


Formally unveiled late last week by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra at an event in Silicon Valley, the Green Button Initiative is an effort that would allow consumers in California (and eventually other states) to access and download household energy consumption data directly from the websites of their utility providers or third parties. The aim of the program is to make it easier for consumers to tweak, shrink, and most importantly, comprehend, their household energy habits.


Revolving around an open (yet secure) and easy-to-grasp standard, the Administration claims that Green Button is “already spurring a burst of innovation among website and software developers interested in using that standard to provide novel services— from information about how to save energy or choose appropriately sized solar panels to fun apps that allow individuals to compete against Facebook friends to save energy. The Green Button is also expected to support a new generation of interactive thermostats and virtual energy audits that will recommend energy-efficiency retrofit improvements for homes and businesses.”


Two of California's largest utility companies, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric, are already on board with the Green Button feature available to a combined 6 million customers on both of those utility providers’ websites. To the left is a partial screenshot of the Green Button landing page on the PGE website.


Southern California Edison, Glendale Power & Light, Oncor, Pepco Holdings, and several other utility companies serving 11.3 million households, not just in California but across the country, plan to unroll the Green Button feature later this year.


Here’s what Chopra himself says about the Green Button Initiative, a concept that he first introduced last September:


At an event yesterday in California, 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.


Thanks to early adoption by two of California’s largest electrical utilities and numerous innovative companies, roughly six million Americans have access to a Green Button starting today. Over time, as utilities across the Nation join in, that number will grow. And so will the application and software market, providing consumers with increasing insight and useful information into their everyday electricity consumption—as well as ways to take action based on that knowledge.


As noted in The New York Times, the further development — that aforementioned "burst of innovation" — of Green Button is heavily reliant on the tech-focused private sector (i.e. the folks who create apps) with the government acting primarily as a "cheerleader and impatient convener" in Chopra's words. 


​Any Pacific Gas & Electric or San Diego Gas & Electric out there that have pushed the Green Button yet?


Via [New York Times]


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Energy awareness with just a push of a (green) button
Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra announces Green Button, an effort to make understanding (and adjusting) household energy consumption easier through a sta