PG&E launches Green Button Connect

02. October 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Energy storage | By:  Jonathan Gifford

As a part of its plan to facilitate better demand-side management of electricity usage, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has launched its Green Button Connect system. The software aims at providing electricity usage data to customers and to solar installers, to allow for more integrated photovoltaic and demand-side electricity solutions.

A PG&E substation in the Mission districit in San Francisco.

PG&E is expanding its smart grid and demand-side management programs.

As utilities increasingly address the need for smart meters and intelligent grid infrastructure to meet energy challenges in the future, demand-side management technology is being rolled out to consumers. In the latest development from Californian utility PG&E, its Green Button Connect system will allow for a customer’s energy usage data to be automatically sent to third party app developers, to provide energy usage solutions.

Another aim of the Green Button Connect system is to provide detailed electricity usage data to solar installers, so they can provide bespoke solutions for households. "We want it to be really easy and quick for customers to manage their energy use," said PG&E Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Karen Austin. "It should take a minute to securely share your data with a solar panel installation company, not 10 minutes."

In announcing the release of the system yesterday, PG&E also restated plans to allow customers to shift energy usage, to minimize electricity costs through time-of-day pricing mechanisms. The utility also stated that it hopes smart grid projects would encourage more rooftop solar installation and to encourage "smart charging" programs for e-mobility, such as electric cars.

Avoiding spikes in electricity demand has the potential for utilities to reduce the need for infrastructure spending purely to meet the peak-time demand, such as when residents return home and switch air conditioners and major appliances on, on mass. By facilitating methods by which households can shift usage to outside of the peak period, savings can potentially be delivered to both the utility and households. Integration with rooftop photovoltaic systems can offer additional benefits, as usage can be shifted to a time when an installation is producing electricity.

PG&E named three third party app developers, which are able to utilize the data provided by the Green Button Connect system: PEV4Me, Leafully and Unplug Stuff.

Smart grid report

At the same time as announcing the Green Button Connect product, PG&E has also submitted a report on the progress of its smart grid plan, to Californian regulators. PG&E is employing communication technology, computing systems, sensing and control technology to the Northern and Central Californian electricity grid.

"We've made progress in the last year making the electric grid that powers our homes and businesses more intelligent," said PG&E Smart Grid senior director Kevin Dasso. "This report shows our clear focus on safety, reliability and affordability, and on ensuring that projects deliver key customer benefits."

So-called intelligent circuits, in Fresno and Bakersfield, have been added to the PG&E infrastructure in California. It is hoped such moves will increase grid reliability by providing early warnings before outages occur.

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