White House Launches Smart Grid Campaign

Clean Energy Report
January 20, 2020

The Obama administration on Jan. 20 joined with major investor-owned utilities to formally unveil a smart grid application that will allow consumers to more easily integrate renewable energy into their households, and to become a jumping off point for other innovations including residential demand response.

White House senior smart grid adviser Nick Sinai announced the launch during a conference call and webinar sponsored by the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid, a group that includes most of the major transmission operators, large clean energy utilities, public power utilities and technology firms. Others on the call included officials from the Department of Energy, the Commerce Department and the utilities PG&E and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The application is called a “Green Button,” which enables consumers to gain access to energy-use data that can be used to help map their household for solar energy integration and enable a host of other energy efficiency applications, according to Sinai. The Green Button campaign begins with a handful of utilities using the button to urge the rest of the country and regions with smart meters to begin using it.

Chris King, a senior official with technology giant Siemens, said the Green Button is a major stepping stone that will help lead to wider integration of renewables, electric vehicles and demand response data. Sinai said third-party demand response companies would benefit from the load forecasting data they get from consumers who use the Green Button software, and it should encourage innovation in that area.

A PG&E official said half of the utility's customer base has downloaded the Green Button. The official said it was unprecedented for a utility company to develop such an application in so short time -- only two months after the White House contacted the company in the fall. The White House tapped California utilities to jumpstart the development of the application because of a state requirement that utilities provide access to their energy data.

David Wollman of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards & Technology said the NIST and the White House have a “grand vision” of stirring innovation in the utility sector. Green Button provides commonality and “momentum” to promote energy usage data applications that will grow into other applications over time, he said. NIST is hosting a February forum on the Green Button and how it dovetails with NIST's efforts to craft smart grid standards with the utilities.

DOE official Chris Irwin said the department will announce awards to companies in March to make the Green Button applicable for mobile devices. The initial award will be followed by large awards to develop other applications.

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