Just this weekend I interviewed IBM's Green CTO about jumping into the smart grid game, and not surprisingly Google.org just announced plans for a new iGoogle app called the PowerMeter, which will bring "smart meter" technology right into your home via the web. This is an example of what I talked about in my lecture Environmentalism 2.0— the Internet has the capability to put valuable data into our hands, helping us to better understand our impacts and make more informed environmental choices.
With the passing of Obama's Recovery Bill, which includes numerous green stimulus measures, over 40 million homes are slated to receive advanced electricity meters which will report back to the utility and could, with Google's IT architecture, give the consumer a precise picture of their energy usage in near real-time.
The meter can detect specific plug loads and theoretically "talk" to embedded sensors in home appliances, thereby determining how much various appliances and electronic devices are consuming. The consumer would be able to see exactly where they are wasting money and make simple adjustments that could save 10 percent or more on total energy costs.
This is great both for people's recession-worn pocket books and the environment. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, Google estimates that for every 60,000 homes that make a 10 percent reduction, it is the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road.
Many of these smart grid sensors have already been installed in the U.S., but regulations do not yet exist that require the utilities to share this personal information. Google filed comments this week to the California Public Utility Commission, asking that it upgrade its smart grid policy to allow the publication of the user's data (via a secure network) back to the consumer.
The gadget (Google's name for an app) would act like a mini-dashboard and could be visible either on your iGoogle gadget page or your Google android phone (if you have one). It is still in beta testing, but Google engineers are showing that dramatic reductions in energy use are possible via PowerMeter.
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