Green Button is a promising initiative, one that would allow every home in the U.S. to easily get their own utility data. As the name implies, a consumer would simply click the Green Button -- and have their utility data in hand, ready to make smart energy decisions.
But despite continued White House support, Green Button has had little adoption. And even when in place, it is confusing. Consumers cannot easily share their utility data with service providers -- solar installers, technology vendors and home performance companies. It’s hard for consumers to buy energy-smart when they have trouble getting their data.
As one analyst said, “If I can buy an airline ticket for thousands of dollars with a simple credit card swipe, why is getting my utility data so hard?”
So where is the gap between the vision and reality? WattzOn has identified three key frictions:
- Just A Few Implementations: Only 35 out of 2,000+ electric and gas utilities in the U.S. have signed up for Green Button. And, of those that have “signed up,” only ten or so have actually implemented Green Button. For utilities, Green Button opens up issues of data security and privacy, and enables the cleantech ecosystem (aka competitors) to reach consumers with personalized offers. We note that the financial services sector has solved all of these problems, even when sending around information that is more sensitive than 15-minute electricity usage data.
- A Complicated User Experience: Far from being just a push of the button, the actual user experience involves: logging in to a utility website... finding the right screen...setting the right parameters...clicking the green button..finding the file on the hard drive and then...finally, sending it to the service provider via email. Whew! Some utilities also don’t let consumers get access to their usage interval data until they sign up for ebilling. This process is frustrating for everyone, even computer mavens. And it can’t be done on a mobile phone, which is not just a matter of convenience but one of equal access. (Low-income families often have mobile phone access but not desktop internet access.)
- Unreliable for Third Parties to Use: Green Button Connect is an initiative to facilitate access to data for service providers. The idea is that, rather than consumers emailing csv files, they can select from a list of vendors pre-approved by the utility with which to share their data. The standard for this automated connection is incomplete, and thus there is considerable variation in implementation and ease of use. Service providers are left with a patchwork of solutions--especially if they operate in multiple service territories--and processes to coax their prospects through the tedious process, hoping that they still have a deal at the end.
How can Green Button achieve its vision? WattzOn has a solution today. We have a nationwide library of proprietary Utility Data Acquisition tools that provide Green Button-type services, and on top, we built the energy analytics and engagement tools that help service providers reach and activate consumers.
Over time, uniform implementations and a complete standard for Green Button will emerge. But meanwhile, business can’t wait. At WattzOn, we found that we needed an immediate solution and built one for our own use. Turns out managing all these data connectors is not easy, and so we offer a license to our platform to others.
WattzOn is a proud member of the Green Button Alliance and was a featured Green Button user at the first White House Energy Data Palooza. In 2012 WattzOn was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for consumer insights from smart meter data, part of a DOE effort to spur adoption of smart meters and Green Button.