Google's PowerMeter Bets That Knowledge Is Less Power (Consumption)

By Eliza Strickland | February 11, 2009 1:59 pm

Google energy chartGoogle is testing a free web service that can turn average residents into all-seeing, all-knowing masters of their energy usage. The service, called PowerMeter, would allow people to track their household’s energy consumption online, and information about when electricity rates are high would allow them to adjust their habits and save money–say, by running a clothes dryer at night.

The service isn’t publicly available yet. Google will have to team up with electrical utility companies to get the usage information, and those utilities will have to first install “smart meters” that monitor usage in real-time. But with the current economic stimulus package providing money for the installation of 40 million smart meters, some say that the “smart grid” is inevitable. Basically, it appears that Google realizes that the smart grid is about to get a big boost from the government stimulus, and wants to make sure it has access to the inevitable mountain of data that results [Ars Technica].

A Google spokeswoman says she hopes the announcement will encourage other companies to work on smart grid technologies. “We can’t build this product all by ourselves,” said Kirsten Olsen Cahill, a program manager at, the company’s corporate philanthropy arm. “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 York Times]. Ultimately, experts say, home appliances like dishwashers could communicate wirelessly with Google’s PowerMeter or with utilities, which could tell the dishwasher when to turn on in order to save the most money.

Some commentators see an insiduous aspect to this, and say that the next obvious step would be for consumers to give Google direct control over their appliances. Google could make sure your morning coffee is ready when you wake up, run your dishwasher at night, or flick lights on and off while you’re on vacation to keep burglars away. And every time the user wants to look at an application or change a setting, there’s a chance for some face time with the more important product of all, Google Adsense [VentureBeat]. However, the grumblers note that this is just speculation, and that Google hasn’t discussed whether the program would carry advertising.

Glowing reviews of the service have come in from the Google employees who have tested the software. Engineer Russ Mirov was able to reduce his electricity use 64 percent over the past year, saving $3,000, by replacing inefficient refrigerators and running his pool pump at scheduled intervals. Google cites figures showing that regularly viewing real-time energy use will prod people to cut electricity by 5 percent to 15 percent on average through behavioral changes [CNET].

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Image: Google

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • Amanda

    Wow, that would be an amazing gadget. Thanks for sharing..

  • Uncle Al

    On-Star: We have detected your vehicle doing 75 in a 65 mph zone. We have disabled your ignition and summoned a police officer. On-Star: Under court order we have told your wife’s private investigator where you were last night. On-Star: We have accepted a bribe to unlock your car and start it up for a chop shop entrepreneuer. On-Star: We have mistakenly transferred your coordinates’ ID to a Predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles. On-Star apologizes for any inconvenience this may c

    A government big enough to give you everything is more than big enough to take it all away. Remember your 2008 Bush the Lesser tax rebate incentive? It is taxable income on 15 April 2009.

  • Robb Henshaw

    With PowerMeter, Google is validating the valuable role of energy monitoring in empowering end users with the information they need to take control of their personal energy consumption. I work with Fat Spaniel Technologies (, and we absolutely support Google’s stated principle that “open protocols and standards should serve as the cornerstone of smart grid projects” (from their blog). Last year we announced the industry’s first open energy monitoring solution – the Fat Spaniel Insight Platform™. We believe that in order to provide users with a complete energy solution, it must be an open platform that can monitor all devices and systems and distill the data into usable information. As such, Fat Spaniel will extend its open, standardized interface to Google’s PowerMeter once it is publicly released. We currently provide the monitoring technology for more than 2,000 renewable energy plants across 17 countries today, and we think that Google’s validation of the energy monitoring market will help spread the technology for adoption across all energy systems universally.

  • Chubbee

    How many times I’ve heard of using electricity on off peak hour will save me so much money on my utility bill.
    Unfortunatly they always forget to mention that my electric meter fails to differentiate between on and off peak and simply reads kilowatt hours used.
    I get charged by the kilowatt hour, so the only one making out on this deal is the electric company.
    What a crock of BS!

  • lorie

    Is there a way to locate someone locally to try this?

  • Smart Meter

    Electric Current is a great achievement for humans, but we have to learn to love it in order to make good use of it. I know what I’m saying, we know that we have limited resources but we’ll always find ways to generate energy from diferent sources. I wanted to share my story about the use of electricity for stoping cancer but no time for that. Thanx for taking time to write.

  • Hrishi Sathawane

    Unfortunately, the Google Powermeter does not exist anymore. The Startup EnerSave ( is working hard on delivering a lot more than google power meter. With data from smart meter or a single sensor device, they can look at your electricity data (that you authorize) and split it up into various major energy users and give you tips on how to save more on electricity bill.


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