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Understanding Green Button

Consumers often encounter various value-added services when shopping for great electric rates for their home.  From smart thermostats to home automation networks, new technologies are giving retail electric customers more control over how they use energy.  At the root of many of these energy monitoring and control technologies is data from the customer’s electric meter.

Energy Usage Data Issues

There are over 3200 electric and natural gas utilities in the United States.  This number includes about 300 investor-owned utilities and scores of municipal and cooperative utilities.  Even among the investor-owned utilities, metered data is stored in myriad formats and systems.  Access to customer usage data varies widely and lacks standardization by any measure.  This makes it difficult for energy technology developers to create offerings that rely upon metered usage data.  Developers must go through a unique integration process with each utility.  This expensive and labor-intensive process has served as a barrier for energy technology development.

Standardizing Energy Usage Data

This is where an initiative called Green Button comes into play.  Green Button seeks to standardize the protocols for storing and making energy usage data available to customers.  It is an industry-led effort created with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards & Technology, North American Energy Standards Board, and numerous other governmental and industry groups.  The primary goals of Green Button are to make metered electric and natural gas data readily available to consumers and provide a common platform for application and technology development.

In the Green Button world, there are three key parties.  The first party is the data custodian.  The data custodian is typically the utility or similar entity that has a repository containing the customer’s energy usage data.  The second party is the energy consumer or customer.  The customer has the right to receive and review their usage data.  The customer is also in charge of designating any third parties to access their data.  Third parties are typically technology developers who need access to the customer’s energy usage data in order to provide a service to the customer.  An example of a third party would be a rooftop solar vendor that needs historical electric usage data to model payback and savings information for a prospective customer.  The important thing to remember is that the customer controls third party access, if any, to their usage data.

Green Button Energy Data

There are two basic Green Button data protocols.  The first is Download My Data (DMD), which provides downloadable energy data in a consistent format.  This data protocol is suitable for use in analysis such as the rooftop solar panel example cited above.   The second data protocol is Connect My Data (CMD).  This data protocol provides a continuous stream of energy usage data rather than the simple snapshot of historical usage obtained with DMD.  Energy data streaming operates passively in the background without any additional action required by the consumer.  This type of data feed is useful in energy efficiency or energy optimization technologies.

As residential customers gain interest in home energy management and renewable energy generation, development of connected technologies and applications will accelerate.  Green Button marks a good start at standardizing the availability of energy usage data needed for these applications.

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