I wrote about Opower almost 2 years ago, a company which is working to reduce energy use by simply making people more aware of what they use in comparison with others. At the time of that post, they seemed mostly focused on working directly with utilities, and sending out reports to customers showing them how their energy use compared to similar homes in their area. The idea seems to be that if you are at all conservation & efficiency minded, seeing where you are in relation to others may actually encourage you to do even better. They track the results, and apparently, it works. However, that method works only if the utility is on board to provide the data.
It took a while, but Opower has now launched their “social” site at http://social.opower.com, in conjunction with Facebook and the NRDC. This site encourages people who know each other to engage in a little friendly utility-bill competition. If your utility is one (of the few) which is already engaged with Opower, it’ll pull in data automatically. If not, you can enter data yourself. (So far, it only tracks electricity use, but natural gas is planned). You can also create groups of friends such as college alums, coworkers, neighborhoods, etc. The site is still labeled “Beta” but it seems like a good idea to me. My journey to a lower power bill started with actually paying attention to what I was currently using, and this looks like a fun way to encourage more of that!
For the friend comparison, it requires a Facebook account, but even without that you can compare your home’s use to aggregate data. If you decide to give it a shot, send me a request and we can go head to head next month!