Google’s mission is to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful," and we believe consumers have a right to detailed information about their home electricity use. We're tackling the challenge on several fronts, from policy advocacy to developing consumer tools, and even investing in smart grid companies. We've been participating in the dialogue in Washington, DC and with public agencies in the U.S. and other parts of the world to advocate for investment in the building of a "smart grid," to bring our 1950s-era electricity grid into the digital age. Specifically, to provide both consumers and utilities with real-time energy information, homes must be equipped with advanced energy meters called "smart meters." There are currently about 40 million smart meters in use worldwide, with plans to add another 100 million in the next few years.
But deploying smart meters alone isn't enough. This needs to be coupled with a strategy to provide customers with easy access to energy information. That's why we believe that open protocols and standards should serve as the cornerstone of smart grid projects, to spur innovation, drive competition, and bring more information to consumers as the smart grid evolves. We believe that detailed data on your personal energy use belongs to you, and should be available in an open standard, non-proprietary format. You should control who gets to see your data, and you should be free to choose from a wide range of services to help you understand it and benefit from it. For more details on our policy suggestions, check out the comments we filed yesterday with the California Public Utility Commission.
In addition to policy advocacy, we're building consumer tools, too. Over the last several months, our engineers have developed a software tool called Google PowerMeter , which will show consumers their home energy information almost in real time, right on their computer. Google PowerMeter is not yet available to the public since we're testing it out with Googlers first. But we're building partnerships with utilities and independent device manufacturers to gradually roll this out in pilot programs. Once we've had a chance to kick the tires, we'll make the tool more widely available.
Update 12 Feb 2009
Daily Climate News and Opinion put the Google announcement in perspective
Watch the business pages this week, and you'll see technology giants like Google, Microsoft and IBM tripping over each other to announce their latest "smart" technology for tracking energy and emissions from businesses and homes. Their timing is as smart as the technology they hope to sell. The economic stimulus package that won approval in the Senate today includes $4.5 billion for “smart” grid technology and billions more for energy efficiency. Tech companies large and small were already busy behind the scenes talking to the new administration in Washington and sending testimony to state agencies to ensure that this new energy world President Obama envisions includes their software, equipment and applications. Their selling point is this: It's easier to save energy, cut foreign oil imports and reduce your carbon emissions if you know where your energy is being wasted. For businesses, that means having all the emissions and energy data – from resource acquisition to production to transit – in one easy-to-access place and continually updated for analysis.
Google, in typical Google fashion, wants to transmit your home's entire energy diet into an online app that can count the kilowatts for you. This morning, it introduced PowerMeter, a new online application that has the potential to track a home’s energy use, appliance by appliance, in real time. Of course, a computer application can’t do much without data. All those tracked appliances will have to have chips installed that can feed their energy information to a computer. Google still needs to work with manufacturers to develop that part of the plan. With PowerMeter still in beta testing, Google might seem to be getting ahead of itself. But by announcing the project now, Google is declaring a stake in the game. It's well aware of President Obama’s energy plans for the country, which include higher energy efficiency standards and the installation of 40 million smart meters in U.S. homes. Yesterday, Google urged the California Public Utilities Commission to write the state's smart grid principles in a way that would ensure consumers have direct access to real-time electricity use data in a standardized format – something applications like PowerMeter would need.
Google engineer Russ Morov, one of a few dozen beta testers, said that simply knowing where his power was going helped him cut his energy consumption by about 60 percent, primarily by replacing two 20-year-old refrigerators, his incandescent lights and the timing on the pool pump. He says he's saved about $3,000 a year. That’s probably high, however studies do show that people who are aware of where they’re wasting energy tend to reduce power use by about 15 percent .