Unlocking the “Power” of Big Data: Analyzing Energy Consumption Across 50 Million U.S. Households

Hadoop in Practice Great America Ballroom K
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Opower, the global leader in the field of energy information and analysis, works with 80 utility companies worldwide to give families context, insights, and advice about how to save energy. With access to an unprecedented (and still growing) amount of energy data – currently drawn from 50 million US homes – Opower is uncovering unique trends in how people are using energy at home.

The recent advent of smart meters – which record electricity usage every hour, and in some cases every 15 minutes – has brought about an unprecedented proliferation of energy information. Correspondingly, there is now more interest than ever in capturing insights from detailed energy data, and determining how these insights can empower individual households and communities to make their energy consumption more environmentally and financially sustainable.

This presentation will:

  • Provide background on the structure and scale of household energy consumption data that populates Opower’s unique dataset
  • Discuss how Opower uses Hadoop and other big-data tools to analyze energy data across space and time
  • Highlight how to use storytelling, visualizations, and data journalism to make the results of big-data analysis interesting and accessible to the public (drawing upon Opower’s big-data energy blog, which has been featured in Scientific American, LA Times, and Gizmodo)
  • Present the findings of Opower’s most popular cross-disciplinary analyses (combining energy, weather, and demographic data), which have earned large audiences and heightened public interest in big-data analytics
  • Explore Opower’s big-data investigations and data journalism approach on a range of topics, such as: Who uses more electricity — Gmail users or Yahoo users? What do hour-by-hour energy usage patterns look like on a 100-degree day, and how does it affect the power grid? How does energy usage change during the Super Bowl? By answering these questions, Opower is leveraging big data to raise public awareness and boost citizen engagement around energy, the environment, and big data itself.
Photo of Barry Fischer

Barry Fischer


Barry Fischer is the Head Writer/Editor of Opower’s big-data and energy blog, “Outlier,” which leverages energy usage data across 50 million US households. Prior to his current role, Barry was part of Opower’s engagement management team, which works with 80 utility companies to empower millions of customers to understand their energy usage. Barry earned a BA in economics and MS in environmental engineering from Stanford University, and subsequently completed a Fulbright Fellowship in New Zealand, where he investigated opportunities for renewable energy in the Pacific islands. His work on island energy development has appeared in the journal Energy. You can follow Barry on Twitter @OpowerOutlier.


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