Former Google CEO funds updated US electricity-price database

The US is about to get a comprehensive database of electricity prices that will be available to the public. The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and WattBuy, an energy intelligence service for consumers, is working together to bring the current national database up to speed.

The initiative is funded through a grant from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative co-founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy.

NREL already maintains the Utility Rate Database (URDB), which focuses on the largest 150 electric utilities, constituting approximately 70% of the US electricity load. However, this accounts for less than 10% of all electricity providers. The new project will expand the URDB data set and make it more current and accurate.

Kumar Garg, senior director and head of partnerships at Schmidt Futures, said:

This data will be a boon to green energy players and researchers.

The rise of consumer choice, distributed generation, building automation, and the increasing adoption of electric vehicles makes it critical to provide individuals and businesses with timely, accurate information on electricity costs across geographies.

This project follows a successful initiative last year that cataloged electricity rates in the 13 states that deregulated their energy markets, enabling consumer choice. That led to the current database project for all 50 states.

WattBuy will create automated processes to collect and maintain all transmission and distribution utility rates nationally by creating new APIs, working with Public Utility Commissions, applying AI to data extraction, and crowdsourcing rates. This will replace the URDB’s current inefficient method of collecting information manually from PDF files submitted to Public Utility Commissions.

Debbie Brodt-Giles, group manager for data, analytics, tools, and applications at NREL, said:

We’re thrilled WattBuy is expanding the URDB by publishing electricity prices and plans in deregulated markets.

This is a logical next step because we know that there is a strong demand for this data from solar financiers and energy efficiency companies, and we are excited about using this platform to share data with the public.

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.