Posted on December 4, 2013

Green Button Connect Gaining Momentum as More PG&E Customers Using Data to Save Energy

By Matt Nauman

Through the Green Button, PG&E customers have unprecedented access to their energy usage, which allows them to use less energy and save money. PG&E was the leading utility in offering the Green Button to its customers.

The number of PG&E customers using Green Button Connect beta has quadrupled in 2013..

And, through the beta version of Green Button Connect, which was released in October of 2012, PG&E’s 5 million-plus customers with an electric SmartMeter can seamlessly provide authorization for third-party vendors to access that data.  These vendors are providing customers with a wealth of information – from whether they’d save money by buying an electric car to how to cut down on wasteful “vampire loads,” which drain power around the clock.

The number of customers using PG&E’s Green Button Connect beta has quadrupled during 2013. The number of vendors that have access now totals nine, up from just three earlier this year.

But, according to PG&E’s Pat Ryan, that’s just the beginning.

Ryan, an IT project manager in Customer Care Technology, is one of the people working on the next generation of Green Button Connect.

“I really see this as being a game-changer for energy in the United States,” Ryan said. “Access to this type of information can really benefit the community as whole as far as energy efficiency and help customers make wise energy decisions.”

Back in 2011, at the urging of the White House chief technology officer, PG&E and other California utilities agreed to create a Green Button that would allow customers to go online to access their energy usage with one click. In January of 2012, PG&E met that challenge when it launched the Green Button.

Later in 2012, PG&E joined the Energy Department in sponsoring the $100,000 Apps for Energy competition to encourage developers to create useful energy-saving applications for smart phones, tablets and other devices.  Winners were announced by Karen Austin, PG&E’s chief information officer, and Todd Park, the U.S. chief technology officer, in May of 2012 in Santa Clara.

Earlier this year, Austin joined Nick Sinai, the deputy chief technology officer for the Obama Administration, at a Green Button Developer Day in Menlo Park where app developers learned about how they could gain access to PG&E’s Green Button Connect beta.

Karen Austin, Aneesh Chopra

In 2012, PG&E’s Karen Austin and Aneesh Chopra, the former U.S. chief technology officer, spoke about the Green Button, (Photo by Milken Institute.)

Already, PG&E customers can use the PEV4Me app to see if buying an electric car would save them money and, if so, what PG&E rate plan would work best of them. The Leafully app demonstrates a customer’s energy footprint in terms of trees, and offers tips on how to reduce that impact. Leafully recently added an iPhone app and has seen its usage skyrocket to 10,000 downloads a month, Ryan said.

The next step, Ryan said, is what is being called customer data access, or CDA, internally. Think of it as a full-scale version of the Green Button Connect beta, with more robust performance and standardized authorization that should make it more accessible to app developers.

Approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the rollout of customer data access includes pilot projects planned for 2014. The goal is to have it ready for full customer usage early in 2015.

“Data is powerful,” Ryan said. “I’m really excited by the amount of interest we’ve seen from not only customers but also third-party vendors, app developers and startups.”

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