Google Closer to Energy Monitoring via Smart Grid
Search titan partners with utilities to test PowerMeter, and ZigBee may be involved.
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June 17, 2009 by Steven Castle

Google’s energy monitoring PowerMeter software is one step closer to reality, as the company is partnering with eight power utilities and smart meter maker Itron to test the technology.

Partner companies include San Diego Gas & Electric (California), TXU Energy (Texas), JEA (Florida), Reliance Energy (India), Wisconsin Public Service Corporation (Wisconsin), White River Valley Electric Cooperative (Missouri), Toronto Hydro–Electric System Limited (Canada), and Glasgow EPB (Kentucky).

“For now, Google PowerMeter is only available to a limited group of customers, but we plan to expand our roll out later this year,” writes Google’s Ed Lu on the Google blog. “Our first such partner is Itron, a leading meter and data management company that serves over 8,000 utilities and is helping some of their customers, including San Diego Gas & Electric, integrate with Google PowerMeter.”

In the case of San Diego Gas & Electric, Greentech Media writes that the utility “will bring the data back to its central systems, then deliver it over broadband to customers’ computers, according to Hal Snyder, vice president of customer programs.

“That architecture is being tested now with a handful of employees, and will next go to about 35 customers for a trial run … . By year’s end, the utility would like to offer it to all of the estimated 200,000 customers that will have smart meters by then.”

Estimates for the amount of smart meters to roll out in coming years range from 6 million to than 40 million.

Greentech reports that SDG&E doesn’t rule out looking at other ways to link smart meters and home area networks, such as customers directly connecting to their smart meter via wireless ZigBee.

It will be interesting to see which way the utilities go with this. Many power companies will want to collect electrical usage data of all their customers—and for a variety of reasons, including demand-side management, in which customers may be offered discounts for allowing the utility to shut off certain appliances during peak usage times.

So will utilities really offer direct connections via ZigBee—in lieu of or in addition to collecting your usage data?

Also remember that the Google PowerMeter, as it stands, only collects data on a home’s total electrical consumption and not individual rooms or circuits, as a more involved energy monitoring system can.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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