Facebook Adding Energy Consumption App

Facebook has followed the lead of Google and Microsoft in helping users track their energy use. But as things stand, it will largely be a manual operation for many people.

From next year Facebook will be launching an app with Opower, a software company that helps utility providers provide clearer details to users about their energy consumption. The partnership, which also involves the Natural Resources Defense Council, is designed to tap into the same sort of social interaction that already exists on Facebook, particularly in social gaming.

The idea is simply that users will be able to compare their energy use against both their Facebook friends and against national averages for homes of a similar size, which those involved believe will be an incentive to cut use. Users will also be able to automatically publish details of their “achievement” to their newsfeed. It will be possible to form teams and compete with combined totals.

For some participants, it will be possible to have the details automatically uploaded by the utility company’s own computer system, with the organizers quick to point out this will be a purely op-in service. For the rest, however, it will be a case of manually inputting details from either a power bill or a meter.

That makes the scheme something of a hybrid of similar projects from Google and Microsoft. Google’s Power Meter involved hooking up compatible smart meters to a computer, allowing users to track use in real time and become more aware of the surges caused by particular appliances. The company dropped the project a few months ago.

Meanwhile Microsoft’s Hohm requires manual input, but then offers comparisons to other users in the same area and provides customized tips for cutting energy use. As we noted back in 2009, there’s also “a social networking element with users able to swap tips with other users in their area.” That’s an idea that Facebook believes it will be able to expand by using its existing relationships between users.

No word yet on whether Facebook will be setting an example by publishing its own power consumption figures in the app.