Google dips into the smart grid and monitoring of power usage

  • Mountain View (CA) – We are used to the sometimes dozens, often apparently unconnected, announcements coming out of Google every week. But once in a while, there is this one announcement that just reminds us just how big Google has become and how important its drive for innovation may be for our everyday life. Google’s PowerMeter is such a project and if it will grow into what Google envisions it to be, it will allow you to dissect your power bill, identify which appliance consumes how much power and how you can make your home much more power efficient.

    PowerMeter was announced as part of Google’s organization and will be made available as a desktop widget. As part of Google’s first step into the smart grid and its effort to digitize our “1950s-era electricity grid”, the goal is to provide both consumers and utilities with near real-time energy consumption information through this tool. Of course, that will only work, if homes are equipped with so-called smart meters, energy meters that provide information about power consumption of specific devices. According to Google, there are currently about 40 million smart meters in use worldwide, with plans to add another 100 million in the next few years.

    The benefit to consumers is that your energy bill suddenly becomes much more transparent. The PowerMeeter will allow you determine which devices consume the lion’s share of your power and how slight adjustments may impact your power consumption and bill. For example, it would be much easier to find out how much electricity and money could be saved by adjusting the room temperature in the summer and use that air conditioner less often or not quite so extensively. To provide with such data, Google proposed 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.”

    Google said it is currently testing its PowerMeter in-house and intends to make it widely available once partnerships with utilities and device manufacturers have been formed. Google hopes that the PowerMeter will contribute to 5 – 15% in overall energy savings.  

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