Social media platforms have motivated users to compete in a variety of ways, but can Facebook motivate users to battle with friends to earn the most energy-efficient badge of honor?
The National Resource Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental organization, sure hopes so. On Tuesday, the NRDC and Opower teamed up with Facebook to launch an app to help social media users lower their energy use by competing on Facebook.
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Energy consumption initiatives led by technology companies have not caught on in the past. Google PowerMeter and Microsoft's 2009 Hohm initiative never took off. Google stopped offering PowerMeter last September and Microsoft plans to do the same in May 2012.
Opower's social energy app developers are well aware of the challenge and think their new app could be the way to get people to care about saving energy.
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"Motivating consumers to take action—something that has traditionally been a challenge—is the key to unlocking this potential," NRDC said in a statement.
Opower users can compare energy use with their friends on Facebook to find out who has the lowest energy consumption. The app ranks Facebook friends to see who is the most energy efficient. Users can also form groups to compete with other teams. In addition, app users can see how their home energy consumption compares to homes of similar size via a database containing millions of homes' energy use.
"If every household in the U.S. cut back on electricity 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,” NRDC attorney Brandi Colander said in a statement. “This important tool will enhance energy literacy, making our daily energy choices more transparent and empowering people to make smarter, more economical decisions.”
The competitive app is a resource for Facebook users to find ideas for how to use less energy. Users are encouraged to chat on the app about ways they've saved energy. The creators of the app hope users will share their energy use, rank, group participation, and tips on their Facebook pages.
Anyone can use the app, but 16 utility companies allow users to automatically upload their energy consumption. This incentive will make the app easier to use for more than 20 million households across the U.S., including for people in New York City and Palo Alto, Calif. Those whose energy companies are not partnered with the app will have to manually enter in energy bill totals and other statistics.
Social media users love to see how they stack up to their friends on Foursquare, but will this app motivate people to care about the environment and trimming a few bucks off utilities? Tell us in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.