The Green Button program, announced by the White House on March 22, 2012, aims to create an energy-aware population by allowing customers to download energy use data from their utilities for free, according to the article "A Few Utilities Set Out to Prove Business Case for Green Button" in Smart Grid Today
. Andy Ehrlich, principal at FaegreBD Consulting and leader of the energy and environment practice, proposed that smaller organizations, such as co-ops, could band together to drive down the costs of implementing the program, much like they already do for R&D through NRECA's Cooperative Research Network.
Many utilities already contract with energy management outsourcing firms that have the infrastructure needed to handle large amounts of customer data, Ehrlich told Smart Grid Today. So, utilities may not have to hire more employees, but may need to pay customer service firms more to add Green Button-enabled features.
"There has to be a rollout cost, an administrative cost and an R&D cost to doing that," Ehrlich said. "For the smaller utilities, the smaller co-ops, their challenge in getting some sort of voluntary information out to their residential customers is more burdensome than some of the larger IOUs."
Ehrlich foresees parallels emerging between the hospital and utility industries as the Green Button initiative matures. The difficulties rural and small hospitals face incorporating technology required to digitally deliver personal health data to patients, whether because of cost or lack of technical expertise, are similar to the complications smaller utilities and co-ops may face using the Green Button, he told Smart Grid Today.
Current utility participants account for 25 million customers, so hundreds of millions will still be without access to their personal energy data, Ehrlich pointed out, saying that the initiative has a long way to go to reach its goal.
"Ultimately because it's the utilities that bill all of us, the utilities have to get more [customers] to participate," Ehrlich said. "The participants in the program today have to be in a position to prove a couple years down the road that it was a worthwhile venture for their business and their customers."
View the full story on Smart Grid Today's website. © 2012 Modern Markets Intelligence Inc. IMPORTANT: This article was reproduced from the March 29, 2012 issue of Smart Grid Today with the limited permission of the owner.