Using Apps To Eye Energy Use

On May 22, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the first round of winners for the “Apps for Energy” competition, with app developers submitting more than 50 mobile and web applications aimed at helping commercial and residential utility consumers save money by making the most of their “Green Button” electricity usage data. These winners were selected by a panel of expert reviewers (listed below).

Screenshot of the Leafully app homepage

Meanwhile, the public voting period is still open—until tomorrow, May 31 at 8pm. That voting will determine the Popular Choice awards, and the public can vote by visiting this web site.

“We’re pleased to see such a strong response to our call for innovative new apps that will save consumers money by saving energy,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This is about giving consumers easy access to information so they can make sense of their electricity bill—and more importantly, reduce their electricity bill.”

Developers competing in “Apps for Energy” created apps that are designed to make the best use of the data provided through the President’s Green Button initiative, which recently announced that nine major utilities and electricity suppliers will provide more than 31 million costumers access to data about their own energy use.

Winners for the “Apps for Energy” competition are:
Best Overall App Grand Prize: Leafully, Seattle, WA (screenshot seen here)
This application is the brainchild of Seattle based team, Timothy Edgar and Nathan Jhaver who describe themselves as “two developers with an idea.” Their app submission, Leafully, helps utility customers visualize their Green Button data, as a variety of units, such as the amount of trees needed to offset an individual’s energy usage. Leafully encourages users to set energy savings goals and to share their progress on Facebook.

Best Overall App Second Prize: Melon, Washington, DC
DC-based startup Melon, describes itself as the first company to use Green Button data to simplify the process of obtaining an ENERGY STAR benchmark for commercial buildings. The app uses Green Button to evaluate the energy performance of commercial buildings. By providing basic information about the building and its energy usage, the app delivers an ENERGY STAR score and recommendations on reducing energy waste and saving money.

Best Overall App Third Prize: VELObill, New York, NY
Cleantech software and services company, Zerofootprint’s VELObill app helps makes it easier for utility customers to view their energy usage, measure whether it is high or low, and compare it to that of their peers. With this information in hand, users can create an energy saving action plan tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

Best Student App Grand Prize: wotz, University of California, Irvine
The wotz app, submitted by a team of students at UC Irvine, lets users explore and play with Green Button data. Provides several games based on the “shape” of your data, and provides creative comparisons to illustrate your usage, like how many cheeseburgers worth of energy you used last Tuesday from 5-6 pm.

Best Student App Second Prize: Budget It Yourself, Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH
The Budget it Yourself app is a collaborative project a team of students at Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Institute of Art. The app helps users track their energy usage and make energy savings goals.

The team that developed the best overall application, Leafully, won $30,000. Second place, Melon, won $15,000, and third, VELObill, won $7,500. The prize money was provided jointly by the Department and three private sector co-sponsors of the competition.

The winner of the public vote (open until tomorrow, May 31) will receive $8,000, and second place will be awarded $4,000 Selections for the Popular Choice Awards and Peak Energy Usage Award will be announced on June 6.

A panel drawn from government and the energy and tech communities evaluated the apps. Panel members are:

  • Karen Austin, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  • Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Energy Department
  • Sharelynn Moore, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Itron, Inc.
  • Aaron Shapiro, Chief Executive Officer, HUGE
  • Bill Reichert Managing Director at Garage Technology Ventures


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