from good morning silicon valley:
If knowledge is power, Google figures, knowledge about power should be especially empowering. To that end, it's testing out a new iGoogle widget called the PowerMeter that can, in connection with the right equipment and a cooperative utility, display near-real-time information on your household's electricity consumption. The software is designed to tap into the next-gen electricity meters now being rolled out by power companies, an upgrade effort slated to get a multimillion-dollar boost under the federal stimulus bill. Pacific Gas & Electric, for instance, has installed about 440,000 smart meters, aiming to hit 10 million by the end of 2011.
Initially, Google's widget would display overall household use, allowing comparison by hour and day and some extrapolation about patterns and appliances. But building on the open standards and format, outside developers are expected to add features that could slice the usage date more precisely, on the theory that when consumers can easily see what's jacking up their bill, they'll make changes. About 30 Google employees have been testing the setup and are offering testimonials like that from Russ Mirov, a hardware engineer: "By monitoring my energy use, I figured out that the bulk of my electricity was caused by my two 20-year-old fridges, my incandescent lights and my pool pump, which was set to be on all the time. By replacing the refrigerators with new energy-efficient models, the lights with CFLs and setting the pool pump to only run at specified intervals, I've saved $3,000 in the past year and I am on track to save even more this year!"
The PowerMeter is the consumer-side component of the search sovereign's side interest in development of the "smart grid," a power network able to deliver data that all involved — utilities, manufacturers, government and customers — could use to improve efficiency and manage consumption. Being in the business of organizing (and monetizing) the world's information, Google is lobbying hard to make sure all that data is in a standardized, open format freely available to third parties with the consumer's permission. With the smart grid poised to get some serious stimulation, announcing the PowerMeter so far in advance of its availability can be seen as part of Google's efforts to make sure it has a seat at the table.