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New app alert: Social media meets energy savings

Attention competitive, eco-conscious, social media fanatics: If you enjoy comparing your home’s energy usage with other homes, competing in energy-saving contests, sharing energy-efficient tips and measuring your energy use against your friends’, you’re in luck.

There’s an app for that.

Facebook, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Opower have partnered with 16 utilities to launch a social energy app at social.opower.com.

Customers within participating utilities’ territories, which represents 20 million households, can use the app by logging in with a Facebook account. The app’s “Utility Connect” feature will allow users to have their energy use automatically update each month. They can then easily track their progress and share energy-saving achievements.

“The level of enthusiasm we’re seeing from people who are excited about getting better context about their energy use, and share — even brag — about their energy efficiency within their social networks is inspiring,” said Dan Yates, CEO and co-founder of Opower, in a press release. “It demonstrates a shift within the industry for how people expect to interact with their utility. Having meaningful conversations with customers using social channels will soon become common in the utility industry.”

According to the NRDC, improving energy-efficiency efforts have the potential to deliver more than $700 billion in cost savings in the United States.

“If every household in the U.S. cut back on energy use by a mere 1%, that alone would cut more than $1.6 billion off of Americans’ annual energy bills. That’s the same as taking more than 1.2 million homes off-the-grid all together,” said Brandi Colander, NRDC attorney, Energy and Transportation Group. “This important tool will enhance energy literacy, making our daily energy choices more transparent and empowering people to make smarter, more economical decisions.”

The 16 utilities and energy providers are:

• Austin Utilities (Minnesota)
• Burbank Water & Power
• ComEd
• Connexus Energy
• Consumers Energy
• Direct Energy (coming soon in 2012)
• Glendale Water & Power
• Loveland Water and Power
• National Grid (New York and Massachusetts)
• New Jersey Natural Gas (coming in 2012)
• Owatonna Public Utilities
• Pacific Gas and Electric Company
• City of Palo Alto Utilities
• PPL Electric Utilities Corp.
• Rochester Public Utilities
• Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC

The app, which is in beta mode, will expand with additional partners and functionality in the coming months.

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