"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation


New Facebook App Lets PG&E Customers Share, Compare Energy Use with Friends

By Matt Nauman

Using the new Facebook app, friends will be able to share and compare their energy-usage data.

PG&E customers can now share and compare their energy use with friends around the nation on Facebook with a new social energy application.

The app, created by Opower in partnership with Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), provides insight into individual energy use while fostering friendly competition.

PG&E is one of 15 utilities participating in the program. In all, 19.4 million households will have the ability to participate in this program.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

To get started, PG&E customers can visit social.opower.com or search for the Opower app on Facebook and connect their utility account.

“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.”

PG&E customers who sign up will immediately see how their home energy use compares to others with similar homes. As friends are invited and join in, people will then be able to engage in savings competitions. PG&E customers with a SmartMeter and My Energy account can get a leg up on their competition by logging onto pge.com/myenergy to view hourly electric data, gaining insights to further conserve energy.

This new app is among a growing number of energy-use tools available to PG&E customers. PG&E also offers a Green Button, which allows customers with SmartMeters to easily download their personal energy information—in a standardized format—that can be used by third-party developers to create innovative energy-saving ideas.

These examples show how utilities such as PG&E are thinking differently about how customers can use information about their energy consumption.

“Many of our customers use social media to help them manage their daily lives,” said Steve Malnight, PG&E’s vice president of customer energy solutions. “We want to use similar channels to offer them a fun and engaging place to talk about energy and show their friends how saving energy can mean saving money.”

Over time, the app will grow new capabilities, but already it enables customers to:

Compare energy use to similar homes: People can benchmark their home energy use against a national database of millions of homes. All benchmarking will be done on an aggregate level, ensuring that customer data stays private.

Compare energy use among friends: Friends can compare their energy use, show how energy efficient they are, and share tips on how to improve.

Publish conversations about energy: Participants can share information about energy use, rank, group participation, and conservation tips through the Facebook newsfeed.

Engage in group cooperation: Communities of Facebook friends can form teams to help achieve collective goals.

Automatically import energy data: PG&E customers can choose to import their energy data into the application automatically.

The application’s concept derives from extensive social science research on human behavior change and energy use. Research has confirmed that word-of-mouth proved to be an effective tool in encouraging people to use energy more efficiently. The application’s use of this kind of behavioral science combined with energy information, and Facebook’s global platform for connecting and sharing has the potential to create a dialogue and action about energy efficiency among hundreds of millions of people.

“If every household in the U.S. cut back on energy use by a mere 1 percent, that alone would help save people more than $1.6 billion off their energy bills – the equivalent of taking more than 1.2 million homes off-the-grid all together,” said Brandi Colander, an NRDC attorney and head of its energy and transportation group. “Motivating consumers to take action—a longstanding challenge—is the key to unlocking this potential.”

Other utilities participating in the program include: 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, Owatonna Public Utilities, city of Palo Alto Utilities, PPL Electric Utilities Corp., Rochester Public Utilities, and Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC.

Email Matt Nauman at matt.nauman@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.