Market News

 April 05, 2012
Will Social Media Help You Cut Home Energy Usage?

 You'll soon be competing with your Facebook friends to cut home energy use with a new social energy app. The soon-to-be-released app is the brainchild of Alliance Associate Opower and Board member NRDC, with social media powerhouse Facebook, who expect the social energy app to spread energy-efficient behavior to thousands of users when it's launched this spring.

How the App Works: Sign Up, Save Energy & Share

Once the social energy app launches this spring, you'll be able to sign up through Opower's website and the Green on Facebook energy efficiency page. The app uses information from your energy bill to display how your home ranks against similar homes across the nation and the homes of your Facebook friends. You also can compete with others to save the most energy, as well as create "groups" with specific energy-saving goals and race to the energy finish line.

The social energy app also offers energy-saving tips and allows you to share energy-saving advice of your own. You can use the app without connecting to Facebook, and you can choose who sees your information.

Utilities Make the Energy App Automatic

If your electric utility has signed onto the social energy app, the app will automatically pull your energy use data each month and instantly compare it with others. Ten utilities -- representing 4 million households -- have signed up so far, including ComEd (Northern Illinois), City of Palo Alto Utilities (California), Glendale Water & Power (California), Rochester Public Utilities (Minnesota), Austin Utilities (Minnesota), Owatonna Public Utilities (Minnesota), and Loveland Water & Power (Colorado).

Opower expects more utilities to announce their participation in the app when it launches. "There's a tremendous opportunity for utilities to embrace social media as they demonstrate their commitment to energy efficiency," said Opower Corporate Marketing Director Eric Fleming. "We're hoping utilities will see this nationwide -- if not global -- network as a way to expand their online presence and a first step in online social engagement with their customers."

Prepare to Enter Data Yourself to Use the Energy App

If your utility hasn't yet signed up, you'll have to enter your energy data manually each month using your energy bill. While cumbersome data entry was linked to the demise of Google's PowerMeter and Microsoft's Hohm, Opower says its social energy app is way more "sticky," and he anticipates more of the 60 utilities that are members of Opower to come on board soon.

"Our partnership with utilities are the key thing that makes the social energy app different from what the Microsoft and Google systems were able to do," Fleming said. He added that the previous systems focused on providing lots of data, whereas the social energy app highlights actionable information with clear insights

App's Social Aspect Makes It Fun and Fosters 'Social Energy Community'

"We know that people inherently like to 'keep up with Joneses' and the social energy app creates that environment online in more real time than anyone has ever had access to before," said Brandi Colander, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)'s energy and transportation program attorney. "Competition is the piece that's the most exciting -- just to see how people will push themselves to do better each month as they enhance their energy literacy."

The partners also expect the app to create the largest social energy community in the world based on Facebook's ability to connect with a huge audience -- over 800 million users -- and the app's ability to tap into people's natural competitive edge.

"The app is intended to make saving energy social and create a conversation about the merits of energy efficiency that doesn't currently happen," said Marcy Scott Lynn, who leads sustainability programs at Facebook. "Adding the social aspect of environmental action could be the missing piece to previous attempts to create an online community on energy," she added.