A new software company called Melon has hitched its wagon to the growing energy conservation market, and it provides a nifty demonstration of the interplay between new federal initiatives and new opportunities for entrepreneurs. Melon launched earlier this year in concert with the Department of Energy’s Green Button program, which is designed to provide building owners and tenants with easy access to data about their energy consumption in a standardized format.
It’s become commonplace among certain circles to position “the government” as an alien creature that has come to Earth on a mission to destroy a unique subspecies of human beings called “job creators.” Melon’s relationship with Green Button goes to show that there’s a bit of a difference (okay, so a yawning chasm) between simplistic labels and the real world of economic growth and job creation in a modern democratic society.
Green Button, green jobs
The premise behind Green Button is fairly straightforward. It’s a voluntary program that leverages existing programs such as Energy Star, to encourage utility companies and other energy stakeholders to adopt a single consumer-friendly standard for sharing information about energy use.
When Green Button started up last winter, the Department of Energy made it clear that creating new green jobs was a critical part of the agenda. DOE anticipated that the standardized format would motivate innovators to start new companies like Melon and develop new tools, including mobile apps, that enable energy consumers to take full advantage of all the new information at their disposal.
In support of this new and growing industry, DOE launched the Apps for Energy challenge that includes “App of the Week” publicity as well as prizes.
Melon and Energy Star
Melon won App of the Week last July and won second place in the Best Overall App competition, for developing an app based on Green Button-formatted data that commercial building managers can use to create an Energy Star benchmark.
With that information in hand, managers can compare their energy use with similar buildings, spot areas in which a change in practices could gain improvements in energy conservation, and focus investment on the most cost-effective solutions.
DOE cites Melon founder Craig Isakow, whose track record in the building industry gave him first-hand experience in the burdens of developing a building energy profile from scratch. By creating a standard format, Green Button takes care of all the grunt work. Isakow took the ball and ran with it, crediting motivation from the Apps for Energy competition for the fact that Melon’s Energy Star benchmark app was “conceived, created, and delivered in five weeks.”
DOE has just showcased Melon and more than 150 other Green Button partners in an event it calls Datapalooza, in order to draw attention to the job-creating potential that can be unleashed when information is shared freely in an easy-access, standard format.
Datapalooza also featured the launch of new open source data services and applications at Energy.Data.Gov along with a new “Vehicle Data Challenge” designed to motivate innovators to develop new information-based technologies for increasing fuel efficiency while encouraging drivers to focus on road safety.
Meanwhile, Green Button partner utilities and software companies kicked off a program called “Green Button Connect My Data,” which will enable consumers in California and mid-Atlantic states to share their energy data online (securely, of course) with energy service companies and other third parties.
Image: Courtesy of Melon.
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