In 2011, the Subcommittee on Smart Grid of the National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology, published a report titled ” A Policy Framework for the 21sl Century Grid:Enabling Our Secure Energy Future.”
Chapter 5: The Path to Empowering Consumers and Enabling Informed Decision Making opens with the following statement:
“Residential and small business consumers should have access to a portfolio of smart grid programs, technologies, and policies that empower them to manage their energy use effectively” and hence is born the Green Button Initiative.
The idea was proposed in September 2011 and officially announced in January 2012.
The Green Button initiative provides utility customers with access to their electricity usage data. Using data that is provided in a format that is standard across multiple utilities, 3rd party applications developers provide valuable context, analysis, and other functions based on that usage data. There are currently 64 Green Button apps available.
Presently, 23 utilities have committed or implemented Green Button and approximately 12 million customers (commercial and residential) currently have access to their data in this format, with another 20-30 million expected to have access by the end of 2012.
Current Process Is Cumbersome For Consumer
Despite the fact that a number of companies have developed innovative apps for consumers to view and analyze their data – the steps to get here are cumbersome.
As it stands today – customer must first download their data from the utility portal then upload it to the 3rd party app – it is not a seemless process and in some cases they have to register to yet another site to even access the apps. So it begs the question of whether this type of process will provide long-term customer engagement or will consumers simply try it once or twice and forget about it.
According to an Accenture Study (Understanding Consumer Preference in Energy Efficiency, 2010) the average consumer speeds only 6 minutes PER YEAR interacting with their utility and chances are it is not for the right reasons.
So given these reasons – it seems logical that consumers would engage more if they could simply download a “utility-approved” app – authenticate it with their utility (similar to how multi-screen TV services work) – then let the app access the data.
A Step in the Right Direction
The Green Button Connect My Data capability allows a consumer to authorize a third-party service provider to receive direct access to their Green Button Data – eliminating the need for consumers to repeatedly login to their utility and download files.
PG&E is currently in beta trial for this phase and a number of utilities recently announced their commitment to implement this next phase, including BGE, SDG&E, Green Mountain Power, and Pepco to name just a few.
It is definitely an improvement in the process, but it still does not seem to follow the K.I.S.S (keep it simple, stupid!) process for the consumer.
With the rapid adoption of tablets and smart phones, it would seem to make the most sense for utilities and their app partners to leverage these devices to make it easy to engage.
Eric Bruno, Senior Vice President – Consumer Product Management at Verizon recently stated that the smart phone was absolutely the key for consumers to engage with their home monitoring & control services – with 60% using those devices to access their services.
My advice for utilities – eliminate the need for consumers to go through their account portal on the utility home page. Let the authentication and opt-in occur in the app itself. Work with a few app developers to develop apps that make sense for your market for instance an app that include info on EV will be important in California – but not so much in Virginia. Use social networking to promote and get feedback from your customers. Finally, optimize the apps for tablets and smart phones, then tie in back in to some type of home energy management solution.