Well hello there, Facebook users. Pardon me while I interrupt that rousing game of Trash Tycoon for just a quick moment to help spread the word about a soon-to-be-launched app — a “social energy application,” if you will — announced earlier today by the folks over at FB in partnership with mighty environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council and Home Energy Report-pioneering startup Opower. And no, it doesn’t involve virtual plastic bottle recycling.


Launching in early 2012, this yet-to-be-name app will allow 800 million Facebook users to pull home energy usage data provided by their utility provider (the non-Oprah-Winfrey-related Opower works with a growing network of more than 60 utility companies across the country) and share it, warts and all, with fellow Facebookers.


More specifically, once the data is automatically or manually imported into the Facebook app, users will be able to track their household energy consumption and see how it stacks up against similar homes across the country; access a Friend Comparison Feature to share energy-saving tips and tidbits with like-minded virtual amigos; join in on conversations about home energy use via the Facebook Newsfeed; and partake in online contests and competitions. Writes Katie Fehrenbacher over at GigaOM: "Think if a Facebook app could bring the social power of Farmville to home energy management."


Commonwealth Edison (Chicago and environs), the city of Palo Alto, Calif. (natch), and Glendale Water & Power (Los Angeles County) will be the first three utilities to allow a combined total of 4 million customers to seamlessly import energy usage data into the new app when it launches. It's expected that other utility companies will follow. 


Elaborates NRDC energy expert Brandi Colander on her blog:


We expect today’s announcement will be one of many collaborations we undertake with Facebook in order to help the company meet its sustainability goals. As a first step, we’re turning to Facebook’s greatest resource, its platform, by empowering people on Facebook to take charge of and improve the way they use energy in their daily lives. One of our primary goals is to move this nation – our utilities, our businesses and everyday citizens – to cleaner, more efficient energy. That’s an aim we have for everyone we engage with, including Facebook.


Although it looks like some details with the app have yet to be fleshed out, the initial set of features are quite intriguing. And if you're feeling a slight sense of déjà vu, it's probably because similar consumer-engaging, energy-tracking apps have appeared before including Microsoft Hohm and Google PowerMeter. Both of these ventures tanked after relatively short lifespans, but the powerhouse trio of Facebook, the NRDC, and Opower is confident that this new app will click. Here's hoping that the third time's a charm. Once the new app is launched, do you think you'll use it? 


Via [NRDC Switchboard], [GigaOm]

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

Facebook unveils 'social energy' app
Facebook, in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Opower, unveils a new home energy efficiency app that lets FB users <strike> kill time</