Energy app contest to help turn electric bill into energy-saving guide

Monday - 4/9/2012, 9:46pm EDT

Cammie Croft, director of New Media and Citizen Engagement, Energy Department

Download mp3

A monthly electric bill probably isn't the first place you'd look for cost-savings.

But what if you could download an app providing data from your electric company that told you how much energy you use each month and ways to save — both energy and money?

That's what the Energy Department is banking on. Last week, the department announced a new "challenge" for software developers: Create new applications allowing people to download data detailing how — and how much — they use energy.

The Apps for Energy contest, which offers $100,000 in prizes to winning developers, is part of the Green Button Initiative.

That program, championed by the White House, allows people to download energy-use data from their power and electric companies.

Making data usable

But providing consumers with data is only the first step, said Cammie Croft, the Energy Department's director of New Media and Citizen Engagement, in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose.

The Green Button initiative is a "commonsense idea," Croft said. Households should be able to securely download detailed information on how they use energy from electric and power companies "with the click of a button," she added.

While the Green Button project has made heaps of data available to energy customers it doesn't always come in usable bits.

"Sometimes it's difficult to navigate and may not be the most useful or meaningful for you," Croft said. "So this is the challenge that we're putting out there to the developer community: Help us find a way that this can be the most useful to consumers, so that they can perhaps monitor their usage data and be able to know when is the most opportune time to save energy, to save money."

Green Button is now open to 10 million households in California. In the coming year, Croft said, the pilot is on track to expand to Texas, Maryland and Washington, D.C., among other states.

Developers have until May 15 to enter their submissions. The apps will be judged by a panel of Energy Department and industry officials.

RELATED STORIES:

Agencies to follow new greenhouse gas guidance

Army drafts RFP to attract renewable energy projects

Tool helps agencies cut costs on green gov goals