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04/03/2012 04:08 PM     print story email story  

Facebook Launches App, Could Revolutionize Energy Efficiency

SustainableBusiness.com News

When President Obama announced the Green Button program a couple of weeks ago, we knew it would be a hit and could, in fact, revolutionize energy efficiency.

We're already seeing the potential for that on Facebook, which today launched a "social energy app."

Facebook, Opower and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today unveiled a "social energy app" that using the power of social networking to raise peoples' awareness about energy consumption and to give them the tools to reduce it - comparing it with their "friends."

Using the app, you can download your home energy use from your local utility right onto your Facebook page and invite your "friends" to do the same. Then you can compare notes on how much energy you use and share tips on how to improve.

Groups, such as schools and companies, will be able to compare too, and set up contests and other kinds of challenges to "compete on energy efficiency."

And you'll be able to compare your energy use against a national average of similar sized homes in similar climates or to the most efficient homes.

Let the game begin!

Opower's software drives the the app, which, at the click of a mouse, downloads your real-time energy data right from your utility.

Based on your energy consumption profile, the software can also show you helpful utility rebates available for upgrading efficiency and the right energy efficient products sold by companies like Home Depot.

Right now, 16 utilities that serve 20 million households are participating, and more will sign on soon.

Here are utilities currently participating: Austin (Minnesota) Utilities; Burbank Water & Power; Connexus Energy, Consumers Energy; Glendale Water & Power; Loveland Water and Power; Owatonna Public Utilities; City of Palo Alto Utilities; PPL Electric Utilities Corp; Rochester Public Utilities; and Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC. Direct Energy and New Jersey Natural Gas plan to join later this year.

"The level of enthusiasm we're seeing from people who are excited about getting better context about their energy use, and share--even brag--about their energy efficiency within their social networks is inspiring," says Dan Yates, Opower CEO.

According to NRDC, improvements in energy efficiency would save the US $700 billion in energy costs, but it's been hard to motivate people to take action. Behavioral research shows that people tend to change their behavior when they find out how they're doing compared to their peers.

Opower is #10 on Forbes "Most Promising Companies" list and won the #5 spot on the Wall St Journal's Top Cleantech Companies list. Founded in 2007, Opower is backed by $65 in
venture capital.

Here's the app:

Website: https://social.opower.com/



Reader Comments (4)

Author:
jerry huelsenbeck

Date Posted:
04/03/12 10:59 PM

While behavior modification is a useful approach, it is usually not sustainable. The "take-back" phemonena is well known that people will shift back to comfort as their lead determinate. Ari sealing, insulation and propper heating / cooling systems will have a much larger and longer lasting impact. But "thanks for playing!!!"

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Author:
Joe

Date Posted:
04/03/12 02:40 AM

I don't understand. Why would they be less comfortable?

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Author:
Michael Philips

Date Posted:
04/04/12 12:45 AM

How will the success/failure of this venture be measured and verified? I hope this idea works, but I'm skeptical that in a world where everyone is overwhelmed with information inflows, information alone isn't enough and financial incentives are needed.

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Author:
Carrie Cullen

Date Posted:
04/11/12 01:42 PM

Wouldn't the financial incentive already be the result of lower energy usage? The success/failure would be determined by the popularity of the app along with the continuation and expansion of it. Reducing energy consumption need not be uncomfortable!

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