As Facebook heads toward its upcoming IPO, the social networking site is proving there’s even more to it than finding old high school friends and playing games.
In an effort led by Opower and in conjunction with the National Resources Defense Council, a new Facebook app to promote energy conservation awareness was launched Tuesday in a beta phase.
The app, which is currently working with 16 different utilities, will allow over 20 million households to connect in the first stages and upload their energy use from their utility to share it and compare it with the energy use of others.
Users will be able to share tips on energy conservation, see what others are doing to lower their energy consumption, and even challenge others to use less.
Opower has been working on similar efforts for quite some time. The company focuses on helping utilities educate their customers about saving energy, and it uses a combination of behavioral science and data analysis to determine how to best educate the public.
The company discovered that habit changing actually occurred more often when people were influenced by their relationships rather than just facts. If people see their friends saving energy and money, they are more likely to follow that example.
Co-founder Alex Laskey thinks this will have a big impact on how people use energy:
“The utility industry is not known for its cutting-edge customer service, mostly because they’re regulated monopolies. However, that is changing in a profound way—social networking, alerts, sophisticated usage analysis reports, et cetera.”
Some cities believe the app will also serve the double function of helping to meet emissions standards. Spokeswoman Joyce Kinnear of City of Palo Alto Utilities, one of the 16 utilities currently involved, said:
“Palo Altans generally like to compete in these types of things, so we think it will be very effective.”
The city’s climate protection plan calls for emissions to be 5% lower than 2005 this year.
Opower CEO and co-founder Dan Yates says the app has already had some success:
“The enthusiasm we’re seeing from people who are excited about getting better context about their energy use, and share or even brag about their energy efficiency within their social networks, is inspiring.”
The site for the Opower app has a full list of the utilities currently involved with the project. Facebook users can sign up right from the site.
That’s all for now,
Facebook's Energy-Saving App originally appeared in Energy and Capital. Energy and Capital, a free 3x-per-week newsletter, offers practical investment analysis in the new energy economy.