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Facebook, NRDC and Opower Join to Drive Energy Efficiency through Social Media

Energy

Natural Resources Defense Council

Facebook, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Opower today joined with 16 utilities to launch a social energy app at http://social.opower.com. With an initial reach of 20 million households, the effort is one of the most significant to date, enabling people to take action and become more energy efficient. Leveraging the Facebook platform, the app allows people to quickly and easily start benchmarking their home’s energy usage against similar homes, compare energy use with friends, enter energy-saving competitions, and share tips on how to become more energy efficient.

Starting today, anyone can use the app at http://social.opower.com by logging in with a Facebook account. Those customers within participating utilities’ territories, representing 20 million households, have the advantage of being able to directly connect with their utility account, making it easy to track their progress and share energy savings accomplishments with others.

According to NRDC, improvements in energy efficiency have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone. Motivating consumers to take action—something that has traditionally been a challenge—is the key to unlocking this potential.

“The level of enthusiasm we’re seeing from people who are excited about getting better context about their energy use, and share—even brag—about their energy efficiency within their social networks is inspiring,” said Dan Yates, CEO and co-founder of Opower. “It demonstrates a shift within the industry for how people expect to interact with their utility. Having meaningful conversations with customers using social channels will soon become common in the utility industry.”

The application’s concept derives from extensive social science research on human behavior change and energy use. Dating back to NRDC’s Hood River Conservation Project in the 1980s—word-of-mouth proved to be an effective tool in encouraging people to use energy more efficiently. The application’s use of this kind of behavioral science combined with energy information, and Facebook’s global platform for connecting and sharing has the potential to create a dialogue and action about energy efficiency among hundreds of millions of people.

More than 20 million households within the 16 participating utilities’ territories will be able to take advantage of the app’s “Utility Connect” feature, allowing customers to choose to have their energy use automatically update each month. These utilities and energy providers include:

  • Austin Utilities (Minnesota)
  • Burbank Water & Power
  • ComEd
  • Connexus Energy
  • Consumers Energy
  • Direct Energy (coming soon in 2012)
  • Glendale Water & Power
  • Loveland Water and Power
  • National Grid (New York and Massachusetts)
  • New Jersey Natural Gas (coming in 2012)
  • Owatonna Public Utilities
  • Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • City of Palo Alto Utilities
  • PPL Electric Utilities Corp.
  • Rochester Public Utilities
  • Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC

The social energy app is the latest offering from Opower, expanding the world’s most established consumer energy efficiency platform with a social layer integrated within utility websites under their own branding.

“Facebook was designed to enable people to connect, share and multiply their impact," said Marcy Scott Lynn, Facebook Sustainability. "This app is a powerful, easily accessible way for people on Facebook to do just that, inspiring conversations about really important topics—energy and the environment—that might not otherwise have taken place."

“If every household in the U.S. cut back on energy use by a mere 1 percent, that alone would cut more than $1.6 billion off of Americans’ annual energy bills.  That’s the same as taking more than 1.2 million homes off-the-grid all together,” said Brandi Colander, NRDC attorney, Energy and Transportation Group. NRDC’s partnership support includes subject matter expertise, partnership development and promotion. “This important tool will enhance energy literacy, making our daily energy choices more transparent and empowering people to make smarter, more economical decisions.”

Today’s beta launch is the first iteration of this app, which will expand with additional partners and functionality in the months to come.

For screen shots, click here.

For more information, click here.

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