Should We Monetize Personal Energy Consumption Data?

The recent announcements about the retirements of Google’s PowerMeter and Microsoft’s Hohm are not causes for concern for Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) vendors.  These were early starts that helped educate the market about the value of energy consumption data.  However, like many pioneers, they contributed knowledge that will benefit other Smart Grid solution vendors.   The next generation of HEMS solutions will be better applications that are easy to use, easy to access, and deliver edutainment value.  One of these applications is People Power’s mobile application that organizes information about energy use on smart phones.  It delivers on use, access, and information features.  The recommendations section analyzes energy data and delivers knowledge for consumers extending beyond the usual energy use areas and into game and information about related rebates and green deals. 

This energy consumption data may benefit from a new approach to the growing awareness of the value of personal data.  There’s an interesting organization called the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium that promotes the idea that “individuals control their own data by enabling a thriving network of businesses around personal data stores and services.”  I like the idea of an ecosystem that lets me benefit from my data.  After all, if it is valuable enough for grocery store chains to entice me to share it in exchange for cents off of items, then perhaps there are other ways I can gain value from my data.  The same could be true for energy consumption data.  My energy consumption data could have value to utilities and to other companies that could offer me solutions that range from home energy audit services to more energy-efficient appliances. 

If you are of an age to remember green stamps or other early loyalty programs, you’ll recall that you received these stamps when you shopped at certain grocery stores.  After accumulating books filled with stamps, you redeemed them at special merchandise centers.  It was a family activity as children pasted stamps into the books and parents scanned the catalogs for redemption options.  Companies like People Power could take their initial solution and extend it into the personal monetization of energy data by building a common rewards platform that is based on this green stamps model (which still exists as green points).  Use of a common rewards platform as part of any HEMS solution would assist utilities in their efforts to incorporate gamification into their websites. 

For example, utilities could use that rewards platform and award points to consumers for participation in web-based energy awareness games, energy efficiency programs, demand response (DR) programs, or other Smart Grid-enabled programs.   Like the green stamps of years ago, participation can involve entire households – especially using gamification and social gaming to build data, knowledge, and desired consumer energy behaviors.  Point awards could be redeemed for merchandise or services from local businesses that participate in these programs.  Services could include energy efficiency upgrades, HVAC maintenance and other consumer activities that reduce overall electricity demand for utilities.  Merchandise could range from energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs to EV charging stations and solar panels.   

For utilities, the benefits include increased consumer participation in programs which result in reduced need for new generation facilities, reduced operating costs, and reduced CO2 emissions.  For local businesses, the benefits include more consumer transactions and increased loyalty.  Consumers enjoy the monetization of their data in the form of tangible products or services that reduce their energy bills, keep their rates down, and reduce CO2 emissions.  They might also have some fun in the process.  Of course, we must ensure that personal energy consumption data has appropriate privacy safeguards, and recommendations are being developed through the efforts of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). 

Unlike search, consumer purchase, and social network data, we have the opportunity to create a different value model for the monetization of energy consumption data.  The benefits of a new value model for energy consumption data can directly accrue to individuals, communities, businesses, and achieve environmental and energy security objectives too.  It’s an opportunity worth exploring.