Brainstorming With Energy Data

Staff from the White House and the Department of Energy recently participated in an “Energy Data Jam” in Silicon Valley—part of the Administration’s new Energy Data Initiative. The program brought together some of America’s most innovative entrepreneurs, software developers, CEOs, energy experts, and policy makers to take think creatively about how to leverage the growing volumes of publicly accessible government data to spark new private-sector tools, products, and services while rigorously protecting personal, proprietary, and national security information.

Building on the success of the Green Button initiative—which is providing consumers with secure access to their own energy data and has facilitated the voluntary release of energy-use data in computer-readable form to encourage private-sector innovation—the Energy Data Initiative aims to harness the power of energy data through a combination of technology and ingenuity.

One of the most popular ideas to come out of the data jam was to replicate the success of Green Button in the transportation sector – applying the common-sense ideas of data standardization and liberation to cars and trucks.  By engaging in public-private collaboration as we have done with utilities and others in the electricity sector, perhaps we can find opportunities to work with the auto industry to make useful data more easily available to drivers.  For example, data on miles traveled, gasoline consumption, driving habits, and maintenance history can help improve fuel efficiency and save families and businesses money at the pump while reducing harmful air pollution.

The EPA—via the voluntary Energy Star labeling program—has energy performance data on over 40,000 washing machines, TVs, light bulbs, air conditioners, and other products.  What if there were a mobile app that used a combination of these data, your own usage patterns, and financial incentives for purchasing energy-efficient appliances to help you make informed decisions as you walked around a retail store looking at new appliances?

Exciting ideas that originated outside the traditional energy sphere were also identified. For instance, what if people could securely donate their personal energy-use data for energy conservation research while renewing their driver’s licenses at the motor vehicles department?

Interested in seeing other ideas generated at the workshop? They are catalogued on, which along with showcases a wide range of open energy data sets.

As similar efforts in health and public safety have demonstrated, data from various government and non-government sources can fuel new companies, new products, and new features that can improve Americans’ lives.  Our communities, our economy, and our environment all stand to benefit as we move forward with the Energy Data Initiative to unlock data that can lead us to new ways to save energy and money, reduce pollution, provide energy services, and create jobs to ensure an American economy that is built to last.

Nick Sinai is the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. Monisha Shah is the Deputy Associate Director for Energy and Climate Change at the Council on Environmental Quality.

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