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Last week I attended the White House Energy Datapalooza event in Washington, DC. It was an informational and inspirational gathering of thought leaders, policy-makers, and innovators focused on data standards and demonstrations of applications that use a variety of energy data sources including Green Button data derived from smart meters. A clear and overarching theme of the Energy Datapalooza was that data and innovative technologies and applications that leverage it will play critical roles in addressing and mitigating climate change – the critical environmental, economic, and security challenge of our times.   From an energy perspective, climate change means increasing disruptions and more severe disruptions to traditional electricity grids. Smart Grids must be resilient to resist, react, and recover from service disruptions caused by climate change.

Here are three key takeaways from the invitation-only event:

Energy data is a national resource. Dr. Ernest Moniz, the secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) noted that “freely available government data about energy is a national resource” to be leveraged to help mitigate climate change impacts and improve grid resiliency. There’s a wide range of public and private initiatives that aim to exploit this resource including an energy data initiative, a building performance database, and an Open Data by Design contest targeted at DOE data that will be unveiled on June 4, 2014. More details on the full range of initiatives can be found here.

Data needs to be easily accessible.  John Podesta, Counselor to the President, highlighted the value of interagency and public/private initiatives around open data. In March 2014, the Climate Data Initiative released the first data sets focused on coastal flooding and sea level rise, taking data from government agencies like the United States Geological Service and the Department of Defense along with private companies to help communities assess and mitigate these risks.  The next release of data sets will focus on climate change impacts to agriculture and food security.

Data needs to be standardized.  The Green Button initiative is enabling many innovations in energy applications – many of them utilizing smart phones. It is based on the simple but powerful premise that electricity consumption data should be standardized to make data collection frictionless. A total of 55 US and Canadian-based utilities have announced support for the Green Button initiative. That translates into 100 million consumers who will enjoy easy and secure access to their data. There’s a Green Button certification effort underway, an open source implementation called OpenESPI, and growing adoption of the standard by job creators focused on delivering a range of innovative data applications to manage residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural electricity use.

A new data initiative was announced at the White House Energy Datapalooza that follows the success of the Green Button initiative. Electric utilities and technology companies announced support to develop and use a voluntary open standard for power outage and restoration information.  Providing this structured data in an easy-to-use, standardized format and at a consistent location makes it easier for first responders, public health officials, utility mutual assistance efforts, and the public to use this information to manage their responses in outage situations.

We’ve defined human history in categories such as the Stone Age or the Industrial Revolution. Data may indeed be the greatest tool humans have. What we are witnessing now may become known as the Data Age to future generations.  There’s no doubt that new and existing energy data, enabled by a number of technologies, will revolutionize grid modernization and help build Smart Grids and Smart Infrastructures.

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