Google has long defined their corporate mission as establishing a presence in every aspect of the information industry. They have undertaken a new initiative to be a player in the coming energy revolution with an application named PowerMeter.
Smart meters are one part of the developing smart grid that is needed to achieve greater efficiency in our use of energy resources. I did an earlier diary that provides a general overview.
I am in the process of trying to get a grasp on the complexities of the present organizational and regulatory landscape in the US electrical power industry. When I have gotten closer to that goal, I plan to do more in depth writing about it. In the mean time I happened on the news about Goggle and its initiative in the field. I found it interesting because of who they are and what they are trying to do. I thought I'd share it.
Anybody who has had any contact with the internet knows about Google. They have become one of the dominant players in information technology. Some of their efforts have met with greater success than others. They have established the standard in search engines, but pretty much fell flat in the social networking competition. One of their signature features is free internet based applications that provide people with the ability to manage and share personal information such as documents, medical records, etc. PowerMeter is intended to become part of this constellation.
What Google is attempting to do is to be a connecting point for consumers, power utilities and manufactures of smart energy using appliances. It is a project that is in it's infancy. They are attempting to establish partnerships with utilities and manufactures. You can see from this list that they have made limited progress in that effort.
For consumers that get benefit from PowerMeter they would need to have a smart meter installed by a utility that uses Google's API (application programing interface). That would allow them to track information about their energy usage. They could use that information to make decisions about energy usage at different times of the day when prices would be lower. To get the full benefit they would need appliances that could be programed to automatically adjust usage and load to maximize cost benefits.
There is no doubt that arrangements like this are being developed in many places. The technology to make it work already exists. There are now about 40 million smart meters installed worldwide. That doesn't mean that Google will be king of the Grid. For example, Pacific Gas & Electric the utility for Northern California is doing it's own thing. Their goal is to have smart meters installed throughout their system by the end of 2012. They presently provide their customers with smart meters with a computer interface that is linked to their own servers.
Like other information networks, for the smart grid to realize its potential there will have to be a shakeout of technology, standards and players. The good news is that process has begun and some big players are showing serious interest in it. That leaves many questions about how it will be operated and for whose benefit.