Public energy use of all bldgs. (large & small) will allow residents, contractors & energy wonks to learn which need help & what works.
You can look up your neighbor’s house value, what their mortgage was, how much they paid in taxes and what their home looks like. In many municipalities, you can look up how much water they use per month and if they are behind in their payments.
Why not make all commercial and residential electricity and heating monthly for all buildings (large and small) use public info also?
Privacy: There would be an opt-out option for anyone who felt his/her energy use is private. There would be no financial information disclosed.
Expense/Difficulty: Currently, utility companies will not reveal energy use to anyone other than the resident or to a potential renter or buyer for fear of getting sued. With legislation, they could disclose without fear to authorized third parties. There would be no cost to the city and minimal expense or difficulty for the utility companies.
Large utility companies already have data on websites. They would only have to explain how to access data and perhaps pay for increased website services. Utilities might want this because it could create a large increase in efficiency that they could claim and use energy efficiency funding for.
Competitive legislation: There is a push to mandate building efficiency labeling at the point of sale or rental, but for most buildings these transactions occur only once every few years. That's not near enough data for the marketplace to innovate. Also labeling creates additional work and expense for realtors.
Some cities disclose the energy use of large buildings, but this would do much more.
Disclosing all energy use would allow open information to drive the market to fix the problem.
What actions do you propose?
- Contractors and efficiency businesses could pinpoint who needs help and be more persuasive in selling their services because they could prove they actually helped their past customers
- Residents could figure out if they are energy hogs and find solutions that have proven to work in similar homes
- Energy researchers could learn from all the energy data what decreases energy use
- Government, foundations and NGOs could provide support to the programs that are shown to be effective
- Website and software apps could be created to provide added efficiency services using all the data
- Trust would be increased in the marketplace, increasing a demand for services, rewarding those who are effective and increasing innovation
Massachusetts is a high-tech state poised to develop many of the future efficiency services. Making energy use public would give a giant boost to fledgling companies (from blue collar to MIT) without any cost to the city. Disclosure would allow ingenuity to provide market-driven solutions.
Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most abundant source of energy we have. It keeps money in the local economy and creates jobs since green jobs like adding insulation can not be outsourced. Efficiency saves money for residents and residents, decreases pollution-caused health problems and reduces climate change. America with its vast energy use is the Saudi Arabia of possible efficiency savings.
Who will take these actions?
The city of Somerville would pass legislation making all energy use in the city public information (but with an opt-out clause for those concerned about privacy).
The utility would make the data available.
Contractors, researchers, software designers, and businesses would follow up on the information revealed to save energy and money for the city's residents and businesses.
What are the key challenges?
It's hard to know how much energy this would save. Before the Internet, no one could have guessed how much open accessible data would drive changes in markets and lifestyles worldwide.
A 2010 McKinsey report ("Energy Efficiency: a Compelling Global Resource") suggested that energy efficiency could reduce energy use in the US by 23% by 2020 if we just performed the energy efficiency that was a net positive value (i.e. that which saved us money).
Making energy data public will clarify what actions will save us money and create trust that the money savings are realistic. The contractors, app designers, foundations etc will rush into Somerville to help broadcast that information. Thus Somerville could actually drop the energy use in its buildings (both residential and business) by McKinsey's 23% over the next 10 years.
If the average Somerville home uses 700 therms of gas (each of which creates 12 lbs of CO2 for a total of 8,400 lbs per year) and 7,200 kWh per year (each of which creates 1.28 lbs of CO2 for a total of 9,216 lbs per year) and there are a total of 31,000 households, then currently the residences in Somerville emit a total of 247,775 metric tons (2,204 lbs) per year.
23% of the residential sector alone then would be an annual savings of 56,988 metric tons of CO2 per year. I do not have enough data to calculate the savings for the business sector.
(The residential energy use estimates come from HEET's database of over 100 Cambridge and Somerville residences, as well as from a powerpoint by Michael Blasnik, Nest Thermostat's Senior Building Scientist).
What are the key benefits?
Green local jobs would be increased. Residents and businesses would have lower energy bills. Money would stay in the local economy rather than being sent away to pay for fossil fuels that are harvested through mountaintop removal or fracking.
Local pollution would be decreased as well as climate change emissions. Energy efficiency research would be increased.
Foundations, government programs and NGOs would be attracted to investing in programs in Somerville because the results could be proven more easily.
Somerville would be a cutting edge city in market-driven sustainability.
What are the proposal’s costs?
The program could be started immediately. As contractors, residents, businesses, foundations and app-developers learned of the data, the program would have more and more of an effect.