We hear a lot about the upcoming democratization of energy.  But with the average consumer thinking about energy only six minutes per year, it’s fair to wonder if anyone will show up to ‘vote.’

But this week an alliance that includes the intriguing combination of Opower and Facebook offers promise that this futuristic concept may not be so far off into the future.

The democratization of energy gives consumers the ability to take charge of their electricity production and use via new technologies, much the way they’ve gained control over information flow via the Internet. Think rooftop solar panels and plug-in electric vehicles, which together give you the ability to not only make your own energy, but also store it and sell it. Combine these technologies with smart meters, dynamic pricing, virtual net metering, solar gardens, home energy displays and Internet-enabled appliances and you have an electricity system that looks far different than today’s. Large energy producers and operators now control the electric grid, but a democratized grid distributes this control to the rest of us. You and I, in essence, become the power plant.

The democratization of energy, also called the energy internet, holds a lot of appeal in a world where we feel like victims of larger forces that control our economic fate. When oil prices spike, we helplessly take another financial hit.

The energy internet promises to help us be more energy efficient, save money, in some cases make money, and enjoy more comfort and automation in our homes.

However, so far, consumers haven’t shown much interest in taking charge of their energy use, even in fundamental ways. Perhaps this is because the concept of energy democratization seems remote and speculative – to those who think about it at all.  I’m reminded of the nascent days of the Internet, when futurists made lofty claims that it would change banking, shopping and the workplace, and even revolutionize politics worldwide through an inexorable flow of information. At the time, most of us still saw the computer as little more than a difficult-to-use word processing machine.

Apple Computer changed that by making the computer more user-friendly.  Opower (and similar companies) is the Apple of the energy internet, in that it’s figuring out ways to give energy efficiency technologies consumer appeal. Opower does this by tapping into our social instincts and playing on our sense of community, camaraderie and even competition to incite us to pursue energy efficiency in our homes.

But the work is being done community by community, so it’s slow going.  So far Opower has sent its home energy report – a key ingredient of its method – to 3 million households. How to speed it up? That’s where Facebook comes into play, with its 800 million worldwide users all meeting and socializing in one big virtual spot.

Opower intends to use Facebook to set up friendly competitions among households. If yours is one of the 60 US utilities that already partners with Opower, you’ll be able to download your home’s actual energy use from Facebook, compare it against similar households and chart your progress with regular updates from your utility. The Natural Resources Defense Council, the third leg of the partnership, will provide environmental information.

Opower envisions social networking groups and communities forming around their new energy knowledge. These groups could have a significant impact on the success or defeat of energy efficiency products and businesses. Think about how fast video gets passed around Facebook of cats doing cute things. That could instead be word of a hot, new energy product. Or conversely news could go viral of the light bulb that burns out too quickly or the appliance that fails to live up to its promise. Energy efficiency companies will need to be on their toes.

The partnership plans to launch the new venture early next year in the Chicago area through Commonwealth Edison.  It’s fair to assume that many will ‘like’ it.

Elisa Wood’s Facebook page is Energy Efficiency Insights. Please ‘like’ it.

Views: 48

Comment

You need to be a member of Home Energy Pros to add comments!

Join Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros

Home Energy Pros was founded by the developers of Home Energy Saver Pro (sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy,) and brought to you in partnership with Home Energy magazine.

Latest Activity

Walter Ahlgrim replied to James White's discussion What happened to Home Energy Pro's website?
"Try downloading Google Chrome web browser https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/ I had similar…"
13 hours ago
Stacy Hunt posted an event

Building America Webinar: Multifamily Ventilation Strategies and Compartmentalization Requirements at Virtual

September 24, 2014 from 3pm to 4:30pm
The Building America Program is hosting a no-cost, webinar-based training on Multifamily…See More
15 hours ago
Ben Jacobs replied to Bud Poll's discussion Another benefit from air sealing
"This is info I give to clients that I serve. People who live in homes that are not energy efficient…"
17 hours ago
Brennan Less replied to Bud Poll's discussion Another benefit from air sealing
"Thanks Bud. I just feel the need to point out any such issues, because we as a field need to be…"
19 hours ago
Bud Poll replied to Bud Poll's discussion Another benefit from air sealing
"Hi Brennan, "weak and irrational" is not at all what I was trying to communicate. …"
20 hours ago
Christopher Talarico replied to Christopher Talarico's discussion Heating with Tankless Water Heater & Hydronic Air Handler vs. Gas Furnace
"Barbara, thanks for the info - this is some of the research I was interested in seeing. That report…"
20 hours ago
Brennan Less replied to Bud Poll's discussion Another benefit from air sealing
"I would love to see such matters discussed on this forum without broadly characterizing women as…"
20 hours ago
Eric Kjelshus commented on Christopher Morin's blog post Top 5 Changes to ACCA Manual S
"I run loads each day.  BUT my completion does not,    I see so much over sizing…"
20 hours ago

© 2014   Created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service