DailyTech previously covered IBM's efforts to release a "green meter" which monitored the amount of electricity that small businesses use and equating it to green house gas emissions. Now Google has joined IBM and others by releasing its own entry into the burgeoning grid meter market.
The new service from Google is called PowerMeter and it's free to both home and commercial users. While this sounds great, there's one significant catch -- PowerMeter relies on others to provide the information it needs. Google is hoping that makers of home electronics and appliances will add hardware which will feed the service information wirelessly. It also needs utilities to provide it with grid metrics.
Kirsten Olsen Cahill, a program manager at Google.org, the company’s corporate philanthropy arm which developed the service, states, "We can’t build this product all by ourselves. We depend on a whole ecosystem of utilities, device makers and policies that would allow consumers to have detailed access to their home energy use and make smarter energy decisions."
The new service, if it gains a hardware foothold, will offer homeowners their first chance to participate in a smarter grid. Google is among the firms leading such efforts which seek to use existing resources more efficiently.
The service and others in the future may interface with the chips inside devices such as washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers to give users an ever-changing visual display of how much money it will cost to use the device at that particular time of the day. Electricity charges are tied to demand, something most consumers never pay much attention to when it comes to power usage. By using devices at times when demand is lower, users could potentially save a great deal of money, depending on their utility's policies.
Describes Rick Sergel, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, an industry group that sets operating standards for the grid in an interview with the New York Times, "They’ve been putting a chip in your dishwasher for a long time that would allow you to run it any time you want. (These services) provide an opportunity to create dancing partners that will help the system balance itself."
The new meter could also be very useful for plug-in electric vehicles. With GM and others preparing to unleash a fleet of electric plug-ins on the streets, advanced grid meters could allow for billing, at local recharging stations and could also help users and utilities work together to figure out the optimal time for daily recharges. If the user leaves the car plugged in, the smart meter would help the power companies figure out the lowest demand time of the day and recharge the car then. This would save the user money, while helping the utility by reducing the stress on its networks.
The new stimulus package which has almost passed through Congress should help further finance efforts such as Google's. It includes $4.4B USD for "smart" power technologies, with money earmarked specifically for 4 million meters. James Hoecker, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has some jurisdiction over transmission lines says the efforts will not only improve the grid, but will also create jobs. He states, "You can hire a lot of people to install smart meters."