Google: Save the Planet with Real-Time Home Energy Info

Last Updated Dec 15, 2009 5:45 PM EST

What would happen if the world's citizens were suddenly given access to real-time information about the energy they're using in their home? Would they shut off the lights and curb their late-night zone out sessions in front of an open refrigerator?

Google thinks so. The company, as part of an effort with the Climate Group, Natural Resources Defense Council and GE urged governments to provide real-time access to home energy information, in a message Tuesday aimed at leaders attending climate talks in Copenhagen. Other participants in the pro-consumer energy information group includes appliance maker Whirlpool, venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, chipmaker Intel and the U.S. Green Building Council.

Individuals who see in real-time how much energy they are using, save up to 15 percent on their electricity use with behavioral changes, according to a study Google mentioned in its blog post. With energy efficiency investments, the savings grows.

The group's "call to action" was aimed at governments involved in the international climate talks in Copenhagen to be held through this week. The group will take other actions after the climate summit has ended, according to Google.

Google is a believer and investor in home energy information. The company's non-profit has developed the Google PowerMeter, home-energy management software. the PowerMeter works by taking information from a smart meter installed in your home, tracking energy consumption and then sending the data to a customer's iGoogle homepage.

Sounds awesome. But as BNET energy blogger Chris Morrison noted Tuesday, the installation of this new technology into millions of locations has its issues. There are the winners, like smart meter start-up Silver Spring Networks, which just received $100 million in a recent funding round. And the losers, may be the utilities who are caught between relatively untested young companies and outside expectations for smart meters, Morrison wrote.

Roll-out challenges aside the smart meter movement is picking up momentum, especially as part of the greater push for energy efficiency. Their message, coincided (coincidentally) with President Obama's push for greater investment in energy efficiency.

Obama, speaking at a Home Depot in Alexandria, Virginia, called on Congress to create a temporary incentive program -- some are calling Cash for Caulkers -- to help Americans pay for energy-efficiency retrofit investments in their homes.

The idea is three-fold: incentives would allow home owners to make energy savings investments in their home. Stuff like insulation and new windows. This would help them save money on their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all the while, putting lots of folks to work. At least, that's how Obama, and a number of other companies like insulation maker Owens Corning, see it.
  • Kirsten Korosec

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