Improving the Green Button Initiative:
The Green Button Initiative has made great strides in making electricity consumption more transparent, but consumption of natural gas is a blind spot. As a result, end-use natural gas data should be incorporated into the Green Button program to provide a clearer perspective on energy use. This strategy would leverage and complement existing Green Button data and ultimately provide a way to further reduce energy use in buildings across the United States.
Natural Gas is the Missing Link:
Buildings consume two-fifths of all U.S. energy. If U.S. buildings were its own country, it would be the third largest consumer of energy in the world. Natural gas is responsible for more than 20% of on-site energy consumption, so exploring energy efficiency opportunities in natural gas consumption is critical.
In addition, natural gas is a key area for business innovation. Natural gas infrastructure is strained and many utilities need better data to make informed investment decisions. 20 states have revenue decoupling for its natural gas utilities, so utilities can also benefit from reduced natural gas consumption. Additional benefits of a Green+ Button initiative include:
o Inform customers and inspire competition – Opower and Simple Energy are two third party companies that have leveraged electricity data to inspire competition among consumers. This Green+ dataset will enable similar competition in natural gas usage, resulting in increased customer adoption of energy efficiency technologies.
o Assist energy service companies in identifying high potential customers – Many energy service companies have high transaction costs in identifying customers that would benefit from energy efficiency upgrades. By creating heat maps and other tools to identify high usage customers, the energy efficiency industry may reduce transaction costs dramatically.
o Encourage natural gas infrastructure innovation – By collecting and sharing data, utilities will be better positioned to incorporate smart grid functionality around natural gas distribution. By interacting with customers directly, utilities may be able to provide and receive more real time feedback, improving long-term natural gas asset optimization.
Adopting Green+ Button Is Easy and Important:
The current Green Button initiative has been widely adopted – numerous utilities have made electricity data available, and third party app developers have entered the market with disruptive products. However, by expanding the initiative to include natural gas, the Green+ Button initiative would create a new area of growth for energy efficiency innovation.