Over 50% of Ontarians now with access.

 (Cross-posted from the MaRS blog, by Aaron Barter.)

If your smartphone or smart thermostat notified you when your energy usage exceeded the neighbourhood average, would you reduce your consumption?

As it turns out, many people would! A 2011 study from Energy and Environmental Economics suggests that this type of feedback prompts consumers to conserve energy, simply by informing and educating them with details on their energy use.

Knowing this fact about consumer behaviour, MaRS Data Catalyst initiated the Ontario Green Button program in partnership with the Ministry of Energy, MaRS Cleantech, local electricity utility companies and technology vendors in late 2012.

The first stage of implementing the Green Button program is the adoption of the Green Button Download My Data (DMD) standard. This standard empowers consumers to download their energy usage data and make informed choices, which can result in reduced electricity bills and a decrease in load on the Ontario electricity grid. They can do so by simply clicking on the Green Button located on the website of their utility company, which is usually found in the “My Account” section of the site.

In early May 2013, over 300,000 households with southern Ontario electric utility company PowerStream had the Green Button DMD service enabled, bringing the total number of households to 2.37 million across the province—approximately 50% of residential and commercial customers!

This recent gain builds upon significant traction in the province since the service was introduced through leadership at Hydro One, Toronto Hydro and London Hydro.

However, despite these gains in accessibility, customer engagement has been slow to gain traction as not all of us love spreadsheets! This is where the next phase of the Green Button program, the Green Button Connect My Data (GB CMD) standard adoption comes in. GB CMD seeks to engage customers on a much higher level with some exciting new applications.

Connect My Data: Developing online tools to improve consumer engagement

The Green Button Connect My Data adoption will allow electricity customers to connect their energy usage data directly from their utility to third-party solution providers or application developers of their choice. These developers, such as the Toronto-based startups Zerofootprint and Ecobee, as well as British Columbia’s Ecotagious, will have unprecedented customer consent-based access to a market of smart grid-enabled customers, allowing wide adoption of these applications across social media networks and technology platforms.

Ontario customers will soon be able to access these innovative applications at home on their computers or via a mobile device on the run.

Worldwide market for smart-grid data is growing

According to Navigant Research, the worldwide market for smart-grid data analytics is expected to grow steadily through 2020, with cumulative worldwide spending from 2012 through 2020 totalling just over $34 billion. With the introduction of Green Button CMD to Ontario, large and small companies operating in the province can increase domestic and, subsequently, global market share.

Privacy and security

The privacy and security of customer data is of the utmost importance. To ensure that neither will be compromised, our team working on the Green Button initiative will provide a consistent and secure standard, as well as the necessary tools for implementation of the standard across Ontario. Throughout the process, we have worked with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Power Authority, as well as with local distribution companies and application vendors.

So, only one question is left: When can I try out this great new program?

Pilot projects will be kicked off in late fall 2013, with wider rollout projected across the province from 2014 onward.

Working group discussions are ongoing with vendors and electrical utility providers, with all parties focused on delivering this exciting program to Ontario consumers to drive conservation, education, savings and behavioural changes.