In partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Opower, Facebook will be launching a new social energy app in 2012 and bringing the world of social networking to home energy management. The trio hopes to "inspire a grand conversation about energy efficiency among the millions of people who use the service [Facebook] every day."Launching early next year, the yet-to-be-named Facebook app will allow its 800 million users to pull home energy data from their utility companies and share it with their friends. According to Dan Yates, founder of Opower, "Social networking represents the next frontier in delivering consumer energy saving."
With this new app, users will be able to compare their own energy usage with friends as well as a national database of similar homes, and see how they rank in terms of energy efficiency. Communities of users will be able to form teams to share tips for improvement and help realize collective goals. Taking a cue from social gaming, the app and its utility partners will also offer rewards and incentives to users who compete in local challenges and reduce their energy footprint.
To simplify the process of sharing energy data, customers of participating utilities will have the option of importing their data into the app automatically. Other users will need to register and input their data manually. Opower will aggregate this data into an easy-to-understand format that lets people track ongoing energy usage without the hassle of deciphering utility bills.
The involvement of the environmental advocacy group NRDC and energy software startup Opower, both significant players in the energy industry, will help attract key utility partners to the venture. So far, ComEd (Chicago area), City of Palo Alto Utilities (Northern California), and Glendale Water and Power (Southern California) have signed on for the initial launch, with more to be announced in the coming weeks.
Whether this new app will click with Facebook users remains to be seen. In the world of social sharing, would a news feed of your friends' energy usage simply be too mundane? Would you feel comfortable sharing your own home energy data with the Facebook world?