Some context: I work for Uplight (A B-Corp that works with electric and gas utilities) creating electric and gas usage monitoring software; I'm relatively new to the industry and have ideas—some novel, other naïve. I'd love feedback to help decide which one this is. This Climate Idea is addressed to the Green Button Alliance because I see firsthand the power of data access; they'd be great at helping drive this idea forward. In fact, I framed this as something that would fall under their remit. Okay, Idea time! Think of three people: - A 10-year-old who knows how to control their bedroom's radiator - A maintenance worker at an urban office building with several tenants - A student climate activist in campus housing Each of these individuals use resources such as electricity, natural gas, and water; but none have access to view how much they use. Access to account data is provided to bill-payers only (with some exceptions, and at the discretion of those with primary access). In some cases this directly drives bad behavior. Many tenants have zero accountability for resource use, and can use as much as they want. The landlord or management company simply pays and builds the overall cost into the rent. And far more common is a lack of access to viewing usage data. There are some reasons for this. The first is sensitivity: Accounts have sensitive data such as finances, identifying information, and contact info. There are ways around that, which are discussed below. The second is simply motivation and prioritization: it's not the most important thing to utilities. This is also discussed below. So with no accountability and no visibility, all three examples above could leave all the water taps running and jack the heat up to sauna levels. And if they were doing this as an experiment, they'd have no data to show for it. This needs to change; people can't reduce what they can't see. So what's to be done, and by whom? Here are three chief challenge projects: 1. Find the best model and standard for viewing our data A project could explore what form this data access should take. Stakeholders from government, industry and the public can tease out and test the best options. A few starter ideas: - Delegate accounts to utility data, rapidly implementable because it builds on existing software. These would be a secondary role of users, with different (lesser) privileges. - Green Button Personal Data - A grander scheme of lifetime user accounts for all humans on earth, tracking their usage across all their live, learn, and work spaces? - Green Button Publish My Data - A standard for public sharing of resource data. 2. Solve for access, data privacy, and financial sensitivity Not all the data being tracked by utilities is useful or appropriate for secondary users. Names, addresses, account or other id numbers, and costs and payments all need to be stripped away, but in a manner that ensures the remaining data remains incoherent. Once these safety measures are solved, utilities and primary account holders may be much more ready to open up their data. 3. Create government, institutional, and cultural pressure Make usage data a right; make it a requirement; make it the right thing to do; make delivering data well a competitive advantage; make end users want to access their data; make conversations about usage happen. This may sound like a monumental set of tasks, but there are incremental first steps that I believe get us on a track to never taking a step back. The data exists, the software exists, so starting this may be as simple as extending the products we have working now. What do you think? Is this a worthy problem to be solved?
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