Building an ecosystem around energy conservation requires collaboration between a multitude of players and stakeholders, both in Ontario and globally. Like any large-scale systems change, re-imagining data’s role in the energy industry is a collaborative, iterative process that requires rapid trial and error, continuous feedback, and the ability to adapt to changing requirements and context.

This post looks at how energy data standards can be extended beyond just electricity, and into the gas and water sectors.

For now, the Green Button standard in Ontario applies for electricity consumption only, but the potential for expansion is great. While the vision of the Green Button as an energy system intervention included all kinds of energy consumption—most directly electricity, gas and water—the first rollout was consciously limited to electricity consumption.

The reason for this conscious limit was related to the iterative process needed to ensure the scalability and sustainability of the project. By focusing on a key issue, testing out a solution platform with targeted early adopters, and then using the feedback and evidence collected from those prototypes and pilots to refine the intervention and drive adoption, we knew that we had built a path to success that could then increase in scale and scope.

The Green Button is now available to over three million consumers (residential and commercial) in Ontario, and early returns have shown considerable opportunities for conservation and economic impact. Now that some evidence exists on the impact of electricity consumption data access, it’s time to think about expanding the scope to gas and water to fully capture an early majority.

The Ontario Ministry of Energy and MaRS Discovery District have recently launched a working group with Enbridge and Union Gas to identify how Green Button for gas could be rolled out in the province. This will accompany some exploration into the integration of water consumption into the standard as well, allowing for residents and businesses to capture their full portfolio of energy consumption, and identify solutions that encourage and enable conservation across electricity, gas and water.

Why is this step necessary? Aside from the obvious reason that the standard is, by nature, extensible to natural gas and water data, and from the implicit reason that “real” energy consumption can only be measured when all types of consumption are brought together, there is also a compelling economic innovation factor: the integration of various kinds of energy data can spur the creation of new products and services that use all of that data to better encourage conservation.

A systems change in the energy sector needs more than just the participation of the electricity stakeholders. While the systems-change framework recommends rapid prototyping and early adoption, it’s now time to think about scaling upward. Gas and water are an important step in that process.

Want to learn more about how MaRS Data Catalyst is working with partners across North America on large-scale systems change in the energy data arena? Check out our series on data’s role in energy conservation and smart grid transformation:

If you’re looking to learn more about the Green Button and what it means for Ontarians, check out this short video that talks about energy data and conservation:

(Feature photo of reservoir by Tom Burke.)