Just as the smart grid is helping utilities manage energy transmission, online technology is also helping homeowners manage their energy use.

In January, utilities and government officials gathered in Silicon Valley to unveil a web feature that gives homeowners unprecedented access to information about their energy use and, hopefully, will unleash a wave of innovation to help them reduce their energy consumption.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra was joined by executives from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) to launch Green Button. This website feature will enable users to download detailed information about their energy use with the click of a mouse.

It is built on an open data standard to encourage website and software developers to create new services for consumers.

The White House suggests such services could address needs, including interactive thermostats and virtual energy audits, information about how to save energy, recommendations for energy-saving retrofits, sizing solar panel installations, and competition between consumers to save energy.

The PG&E and SDG&E Green Buttons on their websites will collectively enable nearly 6 million households to manage their energy use. In addition, Southern California Edison, Glendale Water & Power, Oncor, Pepco Holdings Inc. and several other utilities across the country also plan to make Green Button available some time this year, educating another 11.3 million households across their service areas.

Green Button is part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to increase energy efficiency by giving consumers more information and control over their energy use. Last November, the administration announced up to $8 million in prizes and funding for innovative applications that achieve this goal.

Clearly, innovation has already begun. Private-sector vendors were on hand at the Green Button launch to unveil new websites and applications that integrate with Green Button to help consumers manage their energy information. One vendor announced plans to open an online Green Button “app store.”