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The Green Button Standard

By Bruce Cameron, Senior Associate, QUEST, & Principal Consultant, Envigour Consulting Inc.

Opportunity
Utilities across North America are developing a common standard for the collection, management and sharing of energy data in a manner that promotes security and ease of use. This standard could be used in Atlantic Canada to advance the objective of reducing energy consumption/GHG emissions; and create a more efficient/productive society and a lower carbon economy.
 
What is the Green Button Standard?
The heart of the Green Button is simplicity, security and consent. It is a way to format energy data so it may be voluntarily shared among various technologies and software while protecting the privacy of the data itself.  The genesis of the standard was a desire to manage the substantial amount of almost real time data from electrical utility advanced meter infrastructure (AMI).  However, the Standard is about formatting and protecting data, so it can also be used for any energy source.
 
The initial focus of the Green Button Standard was to enable consumers to access their data and give consent for third parties to interpret it to help the consumer understand their energy consumption patterns. Powered by this information – and often paired with rate designs that reward reducing consumption at certain times of day – the consumer can both reduce and adjust their energy use.
 
The process of accessing the data and giving permission to share it with others starts with a virtual Green Button on a utility’s website labeled Download My Data. Homeowners or property managers receive their data in a common computer readable XML format. Once a Green Button initiative is in place, consumers can easily access their historical and current usage data, analyze trends, and make informed resource-management choices.
 
A related process, the Green Button Connect My Data standard allows consumers to authorize secure transfers of their electricity, natural gas, or water usage data to the web and mobile apps. These apps connect consumption with other data such as local consumption patterns and weather information. Through the use of standardized Green Button technology, third-party App developers can more-rapidly create and offer products, services, and applications that will work with Green Button implementations.
 
How is it being used in Canada Today?
Ontario supported the development of Green Button technologies as a way to leverage their investment in AMI in the electricity sector. By 2013, four major pilots were underway to test the Download my Data feature. Additional work followed on developing applications to take advantage of the Connect My Data features.  Support for these initiatives came from Ontario’s MaRS data and clean technology innovation centre; key utilities such as Hydro One and London Hydro; and Ontario’s Energy Ministry and their Privacy Commissioner.
 
Today, London Hydro has become a North American leader in the development of Green Button. It is also at the forefront of initiatives to create a platform that is shareable among other utilities, including water utilities – and non-utility energy providers.  London Hydro is also looking at how the Green Button Standard can be used to measure the energy consumption of appliances behind the meter. With such specific measurement, even greater insights on how to reduce consumption are possible. The pilot to measure behind the meter currently has 2,000 homes on a single sign-in, single consent secure system.
 
London Hydro’s experience suggests small businesses and institutions with multiple meters benefit most from the Green Button. London Hydro’s Green Button allows them to see energy consumption across their operations – across a city or even across the country. Their model can also capture energy data from a variety of meters and data entry sources.  As long as both data sets are in the Green Button Standard format, it can normalize data that may come from a meter that has hourly use with another set of data that comes in monthly.
 
What are the Expected Benefits from its Use in Atlantic Canada?
The key issue appears to be a need to ensure energy and water data is available in a Green Button Standard format. After that, there are many methods and models that can be developed to integrate the data for a consumer, either automatically or through manual data entry. By taking a common approach among the four Atlantic Provinces, there may be a market to establish applications for oil heat, propane and wood heat sources as well as the traditional utility sources for electricity, natural gas and water. Seizing the opportunity to create all fuels applications could put Atlantic Canada in the forefront of energy conservation measurement and monitoring and help advance Canada’s objectives for a lower carbon economy.
 
Once the standard is in place, the possibilities for future development are great. In a world where people are driven by a social and environmental agenda, there may be an opportunity to add new functions. For example, instead of just Download My Data or Connect My Data, perhaps there could be a Publish My Data button to link consumption information to Facebook and other social media. 
 
Green Button Benefits for Community Energy Plans and Research
Ultimately, the Green Button Standard could become a way to integrate vast amounts of energy data. For community energy plan reporting, research and commercialization. To achieve this, there must be proper supervision and a robust legal framework. This raises questions about who does the de-identification, what sort of legislative framework is required, and who pays the cost.  Answering these questions and how to implement a proper system over what period of time are key issues to be addressed in the Atlantic Canada Energy Data Roadmap.

 

 

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