One of the most important parts of the electricity industry is information. I’m talking about consumer information. Think about this one example: the generator needs ‘information’ on how much usage a consumer needs (which determines generation), the utility needs ‘information’ on how much electricity will be transmitted (which determines supply) and the consumer needs to know how much they used so they can pay their bills (which ensures that everyone in the ecosystem is paid accordingly).
A critical issue we deal with where there is information is who owns the information? In my example above, who owns the customers’ information?
To partly answer this question or to at least ensure that all parties involved get fair access to said information, the government launched the Green Button Initiative. Similar to the Blue Button initiative for healthcare data, the Green button is an attempt to get consumers access to their energy usage data easily and conveniently. This information is currently in the hands of the utility. What is very encouraging about this initiative, unlike the healthcare example, is that the government managed to get a bunch of utility executives to agree to an initiative that benefits the consumers. Yes! Note: Interestingly utilities do a fair bit to benefit consumers but I will cover that in a later post.
The thinking is that with access to energy usage data, consumers will be able to better understand their usage and hence make better decisions. The wrong assumption here is that consumers will understand what they see. Fortunately for the government sites, like Power2Switch, which aim to make energy information easy to understand in user-friendly formats will be able to complete the loop of helping consumers to convert information into knowledge which then translates into action. The Green Button development aligns with the trend in most progressive markets that that the consumer’s data belongs to the consumer. The complaints that come from some quarters claiming that consumer energy data is not secure in the consumer’s hand ignore the fact that in almost every other facet of life the consumer owns and secures their data.
As mentioned, several utilities are participating including
- Austin Energy with 400,000 consumers
- American Electric Power with 5.3 Million consumers
- Baltimore Gas and Electric with 1.2 million consumers
- Centerpoint Energy with 1.8 million consumers
- ComEd with 3.4 million consumers
- NSTAR with 1.1 million consumers
- PECO with 1.4 million consumers
- Reliant with 1.5 millions consumers
- Virginia Dominion Power with 2.4 million consumers
The availability of the Green Button also enables technology companies to get involved in providing services to consumers, something Power2Switch is currently working on. Resources for companies include the data standard that the North American Energy Standards Board has provided in the form of the Energy Services Provider Interface (ESPI), which the utilities have signed up to.
Benefits of the green button to the consumer include services that can be provided by third party vendors like displaying energy use information in customer friendly formats, educating consumers on how they can make better decisions regarding energy usage and other energy saving tips. When people know better they do better.
Most importantly there is the opportunity to make the energy industry more transparent; something that cannot currently be said about this industry. For that alone we think this initiative is one that should be championed/touted a lot more than it currently is.
So join us in the movement to free your energy information today!
Do you have ideas of any other initiatives from other industries that can be applied to the electricity industry? Share with us today!