Facebook, Opower, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today launched a social energy app (in beta) that lets electric customers of 16 utility companies share and compare their energy use with their Facebook friends. The app is designed to help you understand your energy use and give you new ways to discover energy savings opportunities while battling your friends in savings competitions. With an initial reach of 20 million households, the effort is one of the most significant to date, enabling people to take action and become more energy efficient.
Leveraging the Facebook platform, the app allows people to quickly and easily start benchmarking their home's energy usage against similar homes, compare energy use with friends, enter energy-saving competitions, and share tips on how to become more energy efficient. More than 20 million households will be able to take advantage of the app's Utility Connect feature.
To get started, you can visit social.opower.com or search for the Opower app on Facebook. For this to work, you'll need to be a customer of one of the following utility companies, so that you can connect your utility account to the app: Austin Utilities (Minnesota), Burbank Water & Power, ComEd, Connexus Energy, Consumers Energy, Direct Energy (coming soon in 2012), Glendale Water & Power, Loveland Water and Power, National Grid (New York and Massachusetts), New Jersey Natural Gas (coming in 2012), Owatonna Public Utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, City of Palo Alto Utilities, PPL Electric Utilities, Rochester Public Utilities, and Utilities District of Western Indiana.
Here are the app's initial features:
- Compare Energy Use to Similar Homes: People are able to benchmark their home energy use against a national database of millions of homes. All benchmarking will be done on an aggregate level, ensuring complete data privacy.
- Compare Energy Use Among Friends: People are able to invite friends to compare their energy use against their own, show how energy efficient they are, and share tips on how to improve.
- Publish Conversations About Energy to the Facebook Newsfeed: People are able to share information about their energy use, rank, group participation, and tips.
- Group Development - Cooperation and Competition: Communities of people are able to form teams to help each other achieve collective goals, as well as compete against other groups.
- Automatically Import Energy Data: Customers of participating utilities, such as Consumers Energy are able to import their energy data into the application automatically, if they so choose. (Customers from utilities that are not participating will also have the option to input their energy usage into the app manually.)
The NRDC says improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. To capture this energy efficiency potential, understanding how people consume energy and their behavior around managing their use is critical, but more important (at least in my opinion) is educating and motivating them to take action.
I have contacted Facebook to find out how exactly it contributed to this project and will update you if I hear back.
Update at 9:15 AM PST: "Facebook was designed to enable people to connect, share and multiply their impact," Marcy Scott Lynn, Facebook Sustainability, said in a statement. "This app is a powerful, easily accessible way for people on Facebook to do just that, inspiring conversations about really important topics – energy and the environment – that might not otherwise have taken place."
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