White House officials brought together dozens of senior government leaders and private sector entrepreneurs Monday, including Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, to demonstrate how energy data is fueling new products and services aimed at promoting greater energy efficiency in America.
The “Energy Datapalooza“was the latest in a series of White House-sponsored events designed to showcase innovative applications using government data – this one focused on the energy sector – hosted by Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.
Park, who serves in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and other officials also announced several new initiatives to make government energy data more accessible to developers and the public.
The Department of Energy, for instance, has doubled the number of datasets, to more than 900 in the past 90 days, that are publicly available on Energy.Data.Gov – a central discovery engine for federal government data and related applications.
Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel also used the occasion to highlight the announcement of four new programming tools that make it easier to inject government energy data into commercial applications.
The new application programming interfaces, or APIs, are aimed at helping entrepreneurs build applications that can help commercial businesses and residential utility customers better manage their energy consumption and lower their costs, using machine readable data.
The new APIs are part of the administration’s Energy Data Initiative, and its broader Digital Government Strategy, which among other objectives, is attempting to unleash the commercial power of freely-available government data.
The new tools, as described in a fact sheet issued by the White House, include:
Electricity API: The Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced the development of an API for its series on monthly, quarterly, and annual data for electric generation, consumption, and retail sales.
Fuel Economy API: The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jointly announced the development of a new interface for data from the fueleconomy.gov website. The API will provide access to all of the data currently displayed in the “Find and Compare Cars” interactive tool, which includes model years 1984 through 2013.
Environmental APIs: EPA announced the development of its enhanced Envirofacts API, which will greatly improve the technical community’s degree of access to environmental datasets.
EPA also announced it put 40 Energy Star product data sets on Energy.Data.Gov and that it intends to build an API for this important data, according to Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who spoke at the event. EPA is also releasing the beta version of Web services for its Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager Tool, which will help building owners more easily benchmark their commercial buildings.
Biomass API: DOE announced the development of an API for biomass data that capitalizes on the “U.S. Billion Ton Report” – a landmark study on biomass as a feedstock for bioenergy. That information will now be more readily available and useful to researchers and software developers.
The Green Button
The growth of energy and public utility data is helping to give the kind of visibility to the Department of Energy’s Green Button initiative that the Department of Veterans Affairs is now enjoying with its Blue Button program, said Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu, who addressed a packed auditorium at the White House Executive Office Building.
The Green Button gives utility customers access to their electrical usage data, similar to how veterans can now download their medical records using VA’s increasingly popular Blue Button application.
The Green Button is actually a standard that many utilities have agreed to use for downloading utility usage data, and which can be shared with third party developers, according to DOE Chief Technology Officer Peter Tseronis, who was among those in the audience at the event. As many as 12 million commercial and residential customers currently have access to their data, a number which is expected to exceed 20 million by the end of 2012.
The Energy Datapalooza also showcased a variety of private sector applications that demonstrate how energy data is already helping the public and commercial businesses make better decisions, including:
Data Market, a private company based in Reykjavik and Cambridge, Mass., unveiled a new energy data aggregation and visualization service that brings together vast amounts of heterogeneous energy data to help business users with their planning and decision-making.
“Our new energy portal applies this know-how to the US government’s energy data, for the first time enabling these valuable resources to be searched, visualized and shared through one gateway and in combination with other domestic and worldwide open data sources,” said Hjalmar Gislason, founder and CEO of DataMarket. (Read an interview of Gislason by technology writer Alex Howard.)
Another company, Clean Power Finance is helping propel solar energy sales by developing an online marketplace for residential solar financing.
Finance processing has been a critical pain point for selling solar systems said Clean Power Finance CEO Nat Kreamer He used the Energy Datapalooza to announce the release of a new software-as-a-service product, CPF Tools 2.1, designed to provide the solar finance industry a new way to help solar professionals process financed solar systems faster and more accurately than ever before, he said.
First Fuel Software has developed a service that attempts to capture commercial building energy costs nationally and help building managers identify immediate savings opportunities without having to wait months and go through the expense of costly onsite audits.
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building has an estimated energy of bill of $3 million annually for electricity, steam and natural gas, said First Fuel CEO Swap Shah. Using tools like First Fuel’s, he said it was possible to identify 15% in electrical cost savings and 24% in steam cost savings through operational changes without requiring a retrofit.
Looking nationally, he said that performing 5.2 million commercial building energy audits would take 400 person-years to conduct, suggesting the importance of finding more efficient ways to tackle wasted energy expenses.
Federal agencies, however, are also pushing hard to make data available for alternative energy industries.
Dr. David Danielson, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said that EERE has just released 20 new datasets, including two from each of EERE’s portfolio of renewable energy programs, including solar, wind and water, vehicles, advanced manufacturing, biofuels, buildings, fuel cells, weatherization, geothermal, and federal energy management.
“The more data we release,” said EPA’s Bob Perciasepe. “it’s our hope the more it will help American businesses and families.”