Consumers can get ‘smart’ information on power use without having to involve their utility, says Google


Ed Lu, Program
Manager Advanced
Projects, Google
October 8, 2009 – Google has announced a partnership with a smart meter company which the search giant has said will allow customers to get accurate information on energy usage without being dependent on technology from their utility provider.

The search specialist announced in a blog posting this week that it is partnering with privately held Energy Inc which produces a smart meter device called the The Energy Detective (TED) 500. Google explained the partnership means that anyone wanting to use its recently launched online energy monitoring software, Google PowerMeter, will no longer have to have a meter installed by the utility company.

"Today, we’re very excited to announce we have secured our first official device partner. (That means having a smart meter installed by your utility is no longer a prerequisite for using Google PowerMeter!)," the company stated.

According to Energy Inc, the TED 5000 is specifically designed to provide energy information to consumers rather than being a tool for utility to improve their margins. "Smart meters are designed primarily for the electric utility industry so they can better manage the supply-and-demand of electricity. TED is designed specifically for the consumer, so that one can better manage the use and costs of electricity. TED puts you in charge," the company states.

Recently Cisco, which along with other tech companies such as HP and IBM is focused on smart meters and grids, said that empowering consumers would result in utility companies losing revenues.

"Utility companies do think about consumers in this debate and believe that if they don’t help consumers with energy management someone else will," Christian Feisst, director of Smart Grids at Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, told eWeek Europe UK. "But smart grid is about improving the efficiency of the system and reducing consumption which by definition lowers revenue for you and it’s the utilities that have to do the investment if you want to have a smart grid becoming a reality."

Google said that Energy Inc was only its first partner for smart meters and the company wanted to hear from other device makers. In May Google revealed that it was trialling its PowerMeter tool with a number of utility companies. "Our initial partners include utilities with millions of customers as well as smaller ones. They are rural and urban, privately held and municipally run," Ed Lu of Google’s engineering team wrote in a 19 May corporate blog posting. "For now, Google PowerMeter is only available to a limited group of customers, but we plan to expand our roll out later this year. Our utility partners are leading the charge to make the electricity grid smarter and we look forward to working with them and others."