Google bypasses Utility for Smart Meters

gigaom posts on google’s latest power meter efforts.

Why Google’s PowerMeter Gadget Partnership Is a Big Power Play

By Katie Fehrenbacher | Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | 11:53 AM PT | 1 comment

With Google’s endless projects — from book search to a browser killer to Blogger — you’re probably wondering why I’m so excited about a new partnership deal for the company’s PowerMeter energy management tool. Well, here’s why: For the first time, consumers can now access PowerMeter via a gadget called the TED-5000, made by startup Energy Inc., and users don’t need to go through their utility or have a smart meter (a digital two-way electricity meter) installed to access it. In other words, Google has finally bypassed the utility with PowerMeter, which is an important step for both bringing consumer energy management products to the mainstream, and pushing utilities to more quickly embrace information technology networks and broadband.

Smart meters are great, but the problem is that just a little over 6 percent of households in the U.S. currently have them. While that percentage will grow dramatically in the coming years, it will take time, and PowerMeter’s former smart grid strategy would have meant the tool was only available to a small portion of the population for quite some time. The other drawback to the smart meter architecture is that utilities are installing smart meters attached to networks that aren’t exactly the most robust. Utilities commonly build networks that can significantly delay the time it takes the energy information to reach the customer — smart meters will often grab energy info every 15 minutes to an hour, but then the utility network will bring that data to the data center and display it back to the customer in a 24-hour period.

I wonder if this will bleed into corporate and commercial environments?

One point mentioned.

Utilities haven’t traditionally been very good at IT — they haven’t had to be — but that’s all changing, and next-generation utilities will need to be as proficient in running data networks as they are at managing power networks. Some forward-thinking utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric know that and are building multimillion-dollar wireless networks to manage their smart grid deployments. PowerMeter and the TED-5000 are just a small piece of that equation, but they’re an important first step in giving consumers easy access, and ownership over, their energy information.