The app leverages Facebook’s existing platform to allow people to benchmark their home’s energy usage against similar homes, compare energy use with friends, eneter energy-saving competitions, and share tips on how to become more energy efficient.
All Facebook users can access the app to some extent starting today, but customers of the following sixteen utilities companies (which represent over 20 million American households) will be able to directly link the app to their utility account:
- Austin Utilities (Minnesota)
- Burbank Water & Power
- Commonwealth Edison (ComEd)
- Connexus Energy
- Consumers Energy
- Glendale Water & Power
- City of Loveland
- National Grid (New York and Massachusetts)
- New Jersey Natural Gas (coming in 2012)
- Owatonna Public Utilities
- Pacific Gas and Electric Company
- PPL Electric Utilities
- Rochester Public Utilities
- Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC
According to NRDC, improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. Motivating consumers to take action — something that has traditionally been a challenge — is the key to unlocking this potential. The Opower app is designed to spur that motivation.
“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,” said Dan Yates, CEO and co-founder of Opower. “It demonstrates a shift within the industry for how people expect to interact with their utility. Having meaningful conversations with customers using social channels will soon become common in the utility industry.”
The new tool is the latest in a number of apps and other technological developments engineered to help consumers manage their resource consumption. For consumers, the immediate advantage of utilizing the app is the potential for moderate savings on monthly utilities bills; for the nation — and the wider environment we all inhabit — the advantages could include a significant decrease in the demand for limited resources like, coal, oil, and natural gas. “If every household in the U.S. cut back on energy use by a mere 1%, that alone would cut more than $1.6 billion off of Americans’ annual energy bills. That’s the same as taking more than 1.2 million homes off-the-grid all together,” said Brandi Colander, NRDC Attorney, Energy and Transportation Group. “This important tool will enhance energy literacy, making our daily energy choices more transparent and empowering people to make smarter, more economical decisions.”
Opower, Facebook, and the NRDC expect to increase the number of participating utilities and expand the reach of the app over the coming year.