Facebook, NRDC & Opower To Partner On Energy-Saving Social App

Facebook, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and clean tech startup Opower are today announcing a partnership on a new social networking-based energy application that will help consumers monitor, improve and compare their home’s energy usage with their friends and other Facebook users.

The app, designed to improve energy awareness, has the potential to combine the 800 million+ users on Facebook with Opower’s network of over 60 utility partners reaching 55 million U.S. households. However, the social app will start off with just a few participating utilities when it launches in early 2012.

Opower, a software-as-a-service company, currently helps electric and gas utilities understand their customers and how they’re using power. Home owners use Opower’s online applications to gain insights into their usage patterns, set personal goals to reduce consumption and even receive alerts if they’re headed towards a big electric bill at the end of the month. The proactive alerts give customers a chance to reduce consumption before it’s too late.

Now, the new Facebook application will bring some of these same features to the social networking service. Participating users will be able to automatically pull in data from their utility provider in order to benchmark their home’s energy usage against a national average of similar homes, compare their energy use with their Facebook friends, enter energy-saving competitions and share tips on how to become more energy efficient. In addition, users will be able to share their energy use, ranking and group participation to their Facebook News Feed.

The NRDC’s involvement will be to provide additional environmental expertise while also seeking out new partners and encouraging consumer participation.

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the City of Palo Alto (Calif.) and Glendale Water & Power (GWP) will be the first U.S. utilities to offer their customers the ability to import usage data into the social energy application. Combined, these utilities offer access to 4 million customers, including all of Chicago’s residents.

The NRDC states that improvements to energy efficiency has the ability to generate $700 billion in cost savings in the U.S. alone, but consumer participation is key to making that change happen. The organization is no stranger to the use of word-of-mouth techniques in this area, going all the way back to its Hood River Conservation Project in the 80’s which, at the time, leveraged real-life social networks to spread word of an energy improvement program. Now it hopes to use word-of-mouth on Facebook’s online network to enact similar behavioral change.

The organizations will formally announce the partnership later this afternoon. More information will be posted to Facebook’s “Green on Facebook” page.