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Last year, the White House challenged the electricity industry to provide customers with electronic access to their energy data. The industry responded, and today the “Green Button” initiative is supported at varying levels by 29 utilities providing service to 27 million households. Not a bad start for a program barely six months old.

At heart, Green Button is a standard that promises to bring order and definition to energy data. The vision for Green Button is a unified data platform that supports an array of third-party energy analysis applications, with access controlled by the customer. Context and analysis turns raw energy data into value for your business. Much like the way your phone has multiple applications that use its GPS location data, energy apps use billing or interval data to deliver targeted recommendations.

The first wave of Green Button implementations make energy data available to customers via, well, a green button that allows users to download data from their utility’s web site. A second, more interesting phase launching this fall will bring utility-administered “Green Button Connect” sites that allow energy users to grant and revoke data access to third-party applications.

Third-party efforts are nascent. 64 total applications are currently available, but only two are focused on commercial customers (load analysis and Energy Star benchmarking).

Although still early, the fast progress of Green Button has several implications for commercial energy managers:

  1. Free data access is here or coming. Given Green Button’s momentum, expect all utilities to start sharing data with customers, often in conjunction with a smart meter roll-out.
  2. Reconsider shadow metering. Many buildings have paid dearly to install real-time metering, only to find that the same data is now provided for free by the utility. Metering can absolutely provide benefits to energy managers, particularly on multi-building campuses, but think carefully before getting into long-term metering projects or contracts.
  3. Expect low-cost innovation. Energy applications have traditionally been prohibitively expensive and difficult to deploy. Freely available data will bring new applications at attractive prices. Case in point: Gridium’s entry level product is $50 per month with a free trial.

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