WegoWise Officially Signs to the Green Button Initiative

by ‐ Tags: current events, tracking and benchmarking, benchmarking policy, green living

Today WegoWise is happy to announce that we’ve officially signed on to the Green Button initiative that has been inspired by the White House and implemented by forward thinking utilities across the country. We already import Green Button data from utilities that provide it, and our commitment today means we’ll soon be allowing our customers to download their data in the Green Button format.

Green Button

The promise of the Green Button initiative is universal access to utility data. But marketing-speak aside, what exactly is it?

Leveling the Data Playing Field

I’ve spoken to a lot of folks who describe Green Button as some sort of cure-all that will transform how we think about energy efficiency. This is unfortunate, not only because it’s incorrect, because also we don’t need to exaggerate the intent of the initiative to understand why it’s valuable.

Green Button is about one thing: open standards. Standards are a set of rules that the individual players in an industry agree upon to allow the industry as a whole to flourish. One of the best examples of why standards are so necessary is the internet. Without formal, well-defined, open web standards, the internet wouldn’t be the innovative marvel it is today, and WegoWise almost certainly wouldn’t exist.

How do you think people agree on how data is transmitted across the internet? There are many different ways to implement communication protocols, so how can everyone agree on just one? How do the companies that make web browsers agree on how to display web pages? If every company to decided these things on their own, we’d never get anywhere. Instead, there are organizations whose sole purpose is to define these things in a way that works for everyone. These are the standards bodies -- their work isn’t glamorous, but it’s absolutely critical.

Tools to Empower Industry

Until recently, no standards body had ever defined how utility companies should present data to users. This is because there was never a reason why that needed to be common across utilities. After all, why should NSTAR in Massachusetts care how PG&E in California presents data to its customers?

As a country, however, we are concerned about making our buildings more efficient. And to accomplish that goal, you need data. When you start thinking about energy efficiency, having standards that define what data is available, and how it’s presented, become very valuable. The Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) understood the value of a data standard, and catalyzed the industry to come to a consensus and create one. That standard is now known as Green Button.

We understand this issue very well at WegoWise -- after all, we already import data from over 150 different water, electric, gas and oil utilities throughout the country.  We’re able to do this because we’ve invested a lot into developing very solid technology and infrastructure. This gives us a competitive advantage, but it also means we know the pain associated with the current system. Ultimately, our goal is to see energy efficiency become more accessible. If we can make data easier to capture, and more consistent, we think it’s a win for everyone in the long term.

Strong Start, With Room to Grow

It’s important to understand that while support is building, the Green Button initiative still has a long way to go. Not enough utilities support it, and many of those that do only give a small subset of information in that format (for example, providing only usage and no cost or details). Only electric companies have adopted the standard so far, and we know that other utilities are just as important for efficiency projects as electricity. The second-phase of the initiative, Green Button Connect My Data, is being implemented inconsistently across utilities which goes against the entire premise of a single standard.

All the growing pains aside, the Green Button initiative has a lot of promise, and we believe it’s a good thing for our industry.

In fact, we’ve already been pretty involved with Green Button by winning some competitions where we used Green Button data in innovative ways. We won last year’s Boston Clean Web Hackathon, and acquired Melon Power, a winner of the US DOE’s Apps for Energy Competition.

We’re supporting this initiative formally in the hopes that we can help it reach its potential as a universally accepted open standard that truly provides value to the market.