DOE to help fund access to energy use data

Platts Electric Power Daily
January 23, 2020

By Tom Tiernan

A number of utilities are following the Obama Administration’s call for giving consumers easy access to their power usage data, and the Department of Energy is looking to reward firms that take the data and help customers save electricity. In a funding opportunity announcement, DOE said it would make up to $8 million available to companies that develop applications to help utility customers understand and manage their energy use better.

The steps by utilities in California and a few others, along with DOE’s funding opportunity announcement, revolve around the “Green Button” initiative. The efforts stem from a challenge issued in the fall by Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, for utilities to provide consumers with online access to their own energy usage data through the click of a single button.

At an event last week in California’s Silicon Valley and during a webcast Friday, administration officials and utility executives said the goal of the Green Button effort is to provide customers with detailed information on when they use electricity and how much they use in an easy-to-read format to share with third-party providers for evaluation and analysis to enable energy saving investments.

DOE will accept applications until March 1 from companies that create an information tool or software product that helps residential customers manage their electricity use better, said Chris Irwin, smart grid standards and interoperability coordinator at DOE’s Office of Electricity. In the first phase of the funding plan, DOE would award $500,000 to 12 companies that demonstrate such capabilities, and then $2 million to one of the projects for implementation, Irwin said during the webcast, which was held by the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid.

At this point, the Green Button effort is solely tied to power usage, but several listeners during the webcast expressed interest in moving it to all energy use at the retail level. That is a goal of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the North American Energy Standards Board and others, said Dave Wollman, manager of smart grid standards and research at NIST.

Besides investor-owned utilities in California that are already providing Green Button data to customers, others such as Pepco, Oncor and municipal utility Glendale Power & Light in California plan to make the feature available later this year, the White House said in a statement.

To qualify for DOE funding, firms must include explanations of how energy usage data will comply with NAESB standards, DOE said. White House interest in smart grid plans and previous statements on Green Button efforts give the funding plan “a very high profile and we anticipate stiff competition,” DOE warned in the announcement.

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