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UL is certifying new technology to better understand how consumers use energy and resources and help enable smart appliances that may lead to a lower bill.
The Green Button initiative was developed to provide consumers with data on their individual energy usage in an easy to understand format. The program comes from a 2012 White House call to action to provide electricity customers with a better understanding of how to manage energy usage data. With the Green Button program, consumers can download their energy usage by clicking a literal green button on the utility providers’ website. Armed with these details, consumers can securely and easily evaluate their energy usage and hopefully reduce costs too.
The program consists of three phases. In the Download My Data phase, consumers download their energy usage by clicking a Green Button. During the Connect My Data phase, consumers will give other service providers access to their data. This data can be analyzed for usage and offer guidance to consumers on ways to reduce consumption and, in effect, lower their bill. Future plans will allow utilities to suggest alternative energy measures such as wind, solar and geo-thermal options. The final phase, which is planned to launch in the third quarter of 2017, will consist of third-party applications allowing service providers the ability to offer customized information about utility plans on the consumer’s smartphone or tablet.
Due to its connectivity with the smart grid and a consumer’s home, the Green Button Initiative is expected to have the greatest effect on consumers’ electricity use. For example, wholesale market prices for electricity are driven by a supply-demand relationship. Having this comprehensive usage data provides more accurate predictions. In June of 2011, the White House published A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid that encouraged the development and adoption of policies to help consumers “save energy, ensure privacy, and shrink bills.”
Currently, UL is the only testing and certification organization for the Green Button program and will help to ensure the safe transfer of information between consumers and energy service providers. The certification is based on the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) number 140-2. UL will provide certification testing for the technology, the service companies and third-party app developers in an effort to help secure the data to prevent personal consumer information from being released without permission.
Green Button is expected to move into other markets around the world, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea. The Minister of Energy in Ontario Glenn Thibeault is expected to mandate that Canadian service companies adhere to Green Button Standards and requirements in 2017. The technology also will become available to help manage natural gas and water usage data.
“Data collected by smart energy meters create opportunities to analyze energy use, identify potential savings, customize heating and cooling activities for savings and comfort, measure energy efficiency investments, provide energy cost estimates for real estate buyers, and educate about responsible energy usage and conservation,” noted Barbara Judge, UL Consumer Technology Strategy and Business Development Manager.
As our homes, appliances, entertainment systems, thermostats, vehicles, and alarm systems become more connected and have the capability to communicate with each other, there will be a greater understanding and increased control of our individual energy usage. Smart devices will communicate with providers to determine the best times for a device to turn itself on and off. Our electric vehicles will be able to determine when to charge at the lowest possible cost per kilowatt hour. There is also the option of allowing utility providers the ability to control thermostats during high demand periods, which will in turn provide consumers a discount on their bills.