Opower, Facebook and NRDC: Social Energy App
On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, Opower, in partnership with Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), released their social energy app. The app allows people to compare their home's energy use to their friends and other homes across America.
Utilities have partnered with the app, allowing their customers to quickly pull up their energy use. The following utilities have partnered with the app, or will soon:
Opower, Facebook and NRDC expect more utilities to partner with them in the future, allowing more people to easily find their energy use data. Homeowners or renters whose utility is not yet a partner can simply enter their home's information and latest energy bill to participate.
Since the user logs into the app with Facebook, he or she can automatically compare their energy use with their Facebook friends who also use the app. People can also invite their Facebook friends to use the app, or create groups where their friends can directly compete and compare.
Additionally, users can see how they stack up to other U.S. homes. For example, the top 20% of U.S. homes used 283 kilowatt hours (kwh) in March 2012, while the average home used 774 kwh, according to the app.
Opower Energy App: Promoting Energy Conservation
Once a user has compared their home's energy use with friends and other homes in the U.S., they can read Opower's "Ways to Save", which lists ways to save energy in their home, either by conservation or energy efficiency improvements.
It sorts the energy savings into categories, such as Appliances, Cooling, Heating and Air Conditioning, Lighting, and Water Heating. Examples of "Ways to Save" include checking your air filters every month, improving shading on windows, programming your thermostat, turning off lights, and replacing inefficient light bulbs.
Home Energy Improvements: Impact on the Residential Energy Efficiency Retrofit Market
Opower, Facebook and NRDC hope that this app will promote healthy competition, which will motivate homeowners and renters to reduce their energy use via conservation or energy efficiency improvements.
If this app is successful and truly inspires Facebook users to save energy, it could have a positive impact on the residential retrofit market. This market includes home energy audits, energy efficiency improvements, and the purchase of energy efficient appliances.
According to Pike Research, the residential energy efficiency market is expected to grow during the period of economic recovery due to greater awareness of sustainability and energy efficiency, government incentives, utility programs, and new products or product rebates.
The research group estimated that the market for home energy audits was valued at $8.1 billion in 2009, but will grow to $23.4 billion by 2014. It also predicted that the energy efficient home improvement market will reach $50.2 billion in 2014, up from $38.3 billion in 2009.
The social energy app could improve this outlook, or at the very least add a driver to the market's growth. This could potentially present opportunities for current and prospective energy auditors, green builders and remodelers, and companies who offer energy efficient building products.
Only time will tell whether this app will truly draw a crowd and have an impact on energy savings. At the very least, it will hopefully raise homeowner awareness of energy issues - and give the already eco-conscious a fun, but perhaps more productive way, to spend their time on Facebook.