Facebook App Posts Power Use, Ranks It With Others'

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook has launched a new tool that allows its users to compare how much electricity they consume and compare the number with their Facebook friends.

The idea is to give millions of people some added incentive to cut down on their wasted electricity.

The free application allows users to link their Facebook memberships to their power company accounts. As long as they give permission, they'll automatically have their total monthly power consumption published on their Facebook pages.

The new tool will then rank each user against all their friends with the power-counting app installed. This will make it easy for them to compete to use less energy.

(Theoretically, users can stage an unofficial competition to use the most power, too. But that would not be helpful to the environment, and would also be an expensive game.)

Users who sign up for the free application can also see how their power use compares to people (who have signed up) who are living in similar homes in their area.

The application also allows Facebook members to form groups, such as employees at a particular company, or members of the same family, and compete on power usage.

Similar projects in Germany currently allow such power-consumption comparisons among entire towns. (Source: mercurynews.com)

Tech Firm Teams Up With Facebook

The Facebook system has been set up through a partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit group promoting environmentally responsible behavior, and with oPower, a technology firm that helps electric companies provide more details to their customers about their power use.

oPower claims that electricity customers who've had access to the information they provide have already cut their power consumption enough to have lowered total carbon dioxide emissions by more than a billion tons.

Dan Yates, oPower's chief executive officer, said "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." (Source: opower.com)

16 Utility Companies Already On Board

The Facebook application has no provision for manually entering details of your own energy use. The tool works only automatically, and only with participating utility companies.

At the moment, 16 companies are on board with the program. As a result, the comparison and usage posting service is currently available to approximately 20 million electricity customers.

There is some question about how many other utility companies will join the program, because reducing energy consumption is not necessarily in their financial interests.

However, U.S. utility companies generally have a good track record of supporting energy conservation and implementing special programs to help customers save on energy usage.

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