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Opower Launches a Social App to Share and Compare Energy Usage

BY Miranda Neubauer | Wednesday, April 4 2012

Energy information software company Opower has partnered with Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council to release a new social web application that allows customers of 16 U.S. energy utilities to compare how their energy usage and attempts to save energy with their Facebook friends.

This introduces a competitive element — allowing users to compare their power usage stacks up against those of their friends, the typical American or the most energy-efficient homeowners in the U.S. — in the hopes of turning the electricity bill from a monthly chore into a topic of conversation.

"Energy is not the sexiest of subjects," Lin admitted. "We've made it sexier."

Previously, the company had already offered home energy reports to consumers to educate them about their energy use in the context of their home and neighborhoods.
The tool also has a database with information about 20 million homes that allows for absolute comparison between a user's home profile and others as it relates to energy usage. In addition, the tool also offers suggestions about how to be more energy-efficient.

The Obama administration has been promoting similar initiatives through its Green Button program, a challenge to public utilities to make consumption data available to customers online in machine-readable format.

To use the new service, users log on to social.opower.com to first connect with their Facebook profile, and then have an option to connect with their utility provider if it is supported by, for example, entering an account number from the energy bill.

In initial discussions about the app, Lin said, Facebook had noted that while there was a lot of advocacy around sustainability on Facebook, there had been little concrete action or accountability.

"You see some organization's post about something around sustainability, and you share it or like it," he said. "With us, we're a creating an experience, to get direct feedback from an action you're taking."

Asked if Opower would be adding data on energy spending in the future, Lin said the company did plan on providing other types of insights that users could share with their friends. The firm already collects usage data from 16 utility companies covering 20 million homes as part of its work on other products for the energy industry, like printed-out usage reports for consumers.

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