Tracking Home Energy Use with Google

If you"ve got an existing power meter, Google"s new application would help you track your energy use online.© Kill-a-Watt

Internet giant Google announced last week the beta launch of a new free web application called PowerMeter designed to provide users who already have so-called "smart" electricity meters in place to track exactly how their homes are consuming energy. The software, still in the prototype stage, can tell users, for example, which appliances in their homes are using the most energy. This information can help consumers make intelligent choices about how and where to cut their energy use and electric bills.

"Most people don’t know how much electricity their appliances use, where in the house they are wasting electricity, or how much the bill might go up during different seasons," says the company on its official blog. "But in a world where everyone had a detailed understanding of their home energy use, we could find all sorts of ways to save energy and lower electricity bills," Google reports. Studies show that access to home energy information results in savings of as much as 15% on monthly electricity bills, according to Google. "It may not sound like much, but if half of America’s households cut their energy demand by 10%, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off the road."

Google, whose mission is to "organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful," has been a big backer of converting our nation’s antiquated power grid over to a more modern system (the so-called "smart grid") that allows for automated two-way communication between energy producers and consumers. Beyond creating software, the company is also working to influence policymaking regarding the implementation of a smart grid system in California (where it is based) and beyond. Last week it issued a set of recommendations to the California Public Utility Commission advocating that utilities offering smart grid connections make detailed home energy data available to consumers in real time for free in standard formats.

In the U.S., only about 2 million homes are currently equipped with smart meters. And while industry analysts posit that some 6 million homes could have smart meters by 2012 at the current rate of adoption, President Obama is looking to up the ante significantly. If he gets his way, some 40 million homes would have some kind of smart meters within just three years.

Sources: CNET News; Google Blog Spot – Android-powered phones