“Data is the oil of the 21st century and application programming interfaces (APIs) are the gas stations. Infrastructure around this data will change the way we live.”

These are bold and moving words from Ron Dembo, the founder and CEO of Ontario’s Zerofootprint Software Inc. Zerofootprint, a MaRS client, builds APIs that make energy data valuable.

On October 24, 2012, a panel of experts discussed “The Market Impact of Accessible Energy Data,” a white paper authored by Jesika Briones.

Ron Dizy, president and CEO of Enbala Power Networks moderated a discussion among Dembo, Carol Stimmel, research director at Pike Research, and Michael Winters, senior vice-president and chief information officer at Hydro One. A video of this timely conversation can be found at the bottom of this post.

This graphic explains the energy data landscape in Ontario:

Figure 14 from “The Market Impact of Energy Data” courtesy of MaRS Data Catalyst.

Questions addressed by the panel included:

  • So we have made an investment in smart meters, now what?
  • What is the value to the utility?
  • What is the Green Button program?
  • What is the cost of implementing something like Green Button in Ontario?
  • What evidence is there that making data accessible has had the consumer uptake that was expected?

The United States’ Green Button program is an industry-led effort to provide electricity customers with energy data usage information in a consumer- and computer-friendly format. The program was launched less than a year ago and the US now has 33 million customers with access. Green Button has two steps: “Download My Data,” which changes the data format to a common format and downloads the information from the utility to the customer, and “Connect My Data,” which provides real-time data from the utility to a third party with customer consent.

Yesterday, Ontario’s Minister of Energy Chris Bentley announced that the Green Button initiative is, in fact, coming to Ontario. MaRS and the province are leading a working group to investigate implementing a common data format for Ontario utilities. This would enable software developers to produce websites and apps that could display energy data to consumers in a user-friendly way, with the aim of enabling consumers to save energy and money through better energy management.

In Ontario, we basically have “Download My Data” already as we have smart meters and the Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R).

According to Pike Research, the worldwide market for smart-grid data analytics is expected to grow steadily through 2020, with cumulative worldwide spending from 2012 through 2020 totalling just over $34 billion. Given that Ontario has already made the first step in investing in both smart meters and MDM/R, and is now turning its attention to making this data accessible and in a standard format with the Green Button initiative, we could have a real opportunity here to lead the way in innovation in this sector. At last month’s panel, Stimmel stated that “smart-grid data analytics are key to fully realizing the investment made in the smart grid.”






The difference between what we have and what Green Button could bring to Ontario is the difference between pull and push. Right now, our smart meters send data every 15 minutes that is stored in the MDM/R and is accessible for consumers to download 24 hours later in an hourly format. However, only 1 to 2% of Hydro One customers are accessing this data, and only about .001% are actually playing around with the data in a spreadsheet.

In Ontario, a Green Button initiative would allow for multiple APIs to be developed using a common format. Consumers could then access their data through an app that shows them what they want to see.

“We already have APIs in Ontario,” said Winters. “We are at Step 9 in creating that de facto standard.”

The Green Button initiative would be the permission that consumers could give to allow third parties to access their data, basically serving as an “I agree” button. The program would also make data accessible beyond the “spreadsheet jockeys,” those .001% of Hydro One customers playing around with their energy data.

Green Button would enable a broader consumer segment to interact with their energy data in a variety of ways at the push of a button, unlike the one-size-fits-all, multi-step process seen thus far in Ontario.

While the meters themselves are not real-time ready in Ontario, data is hourly and MDM/R contains data from the previous day –  at the front end, data is recorded every 15 minutes. It may not take much to improve to that level.

We’ve already made the investment, now we just have to capitalize on it. As stated above, we have smart meters and we have the MDM/R infrastructure already. With the Green Button initiative, we now have a collaborative effort set in motion to make this data accessible in a standard format.

A report released Tuesday, October 30, 2012 by Pike Research forecasts that more than 23 million households worldwide will participate in demand response programs by 2018, which is double the number of households that do so today. By the sounds of last month’s discussion and yesterday’s announcement, Ontario could be well on its way to leading this charge.

Check out the event video:

Lynda O'Malley

Lynda is a cleantech industry analyst with the Market Intelligence team, helping cleantech and advanced materials entrepreneurs and startups get the market intelligence they need to grow their companies. See more…