A smart grid is a transactive grid.
- Lynne Kiesling
PowerMeter: Running Low?

Courtesy of Earth2Tech, an interesting report on the tepid uptake thus far of Google’s web-based energy tool, PowerMeter.  As frequent visitors to this blog will note, we do not find these results surprising.  After all, data and information without a purpose or use, rarely seems compelling to the consumers.  Now if Google had a way to develop a smart market for its smart meter data, then we would expect to see much stronger uptake.  As the article notes:

“…It’s still early days for Google’s web-based energy tool PowerMeter. A company spokesperson told us today that Google has “a few thousand users at this point” for PowerMeter. That’s pretty small, but it’s enough to enable Google to start using the collective energy consumption data to make recommendations for how its users can reduce their energy use (see their blog post this week).

It’s been about a year since Google announced the tool, but the search engine giant only started working with its first utility partners later on in 2009. Its first gadget partners didn’t come until October 2009 and those firms are mostly startups with small distribution capacities.

Still I would have expected a bigger userbase by now. PowerMeter has close to a dozen utility partners it’s working with that have millions of customers collectively. The high-profile media attention alone I would have thought would have converted users to a free service.

I would speculate that a barrier for more rapid adoption has been utility customer awareness of the tool. Even if Google has these utility partnerships in place it’s probably up to the utility to make consumers aware of PowerMeter’s availability. But think about it from the utility perspective — many want to own the customer relationship as much as possible, so they don’t have much of an incentive to provide much marketing for the tool.

It can also cost utilities money (in terms of employee/contractor time) to develop feeds of customer usage info for PowerMeter and also to communicate to customers about the program. Pike research predicted it cost “tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months,” to implement the tool. Pike suggests to utilities: “make sure they have the means to measure the impact of the chosen program and to gather information that can be applied in other consumer-focused programs in which they may choose to invest.”

Small numbers isn’t necessarily a big problem for Google’s PowerMeter, as the tool was created as a project and never was meant to have a business model. Some of Google’s other products like Google Voice have only just broke a million users. But I think it’s telling that running the service off the back of utilities seems to be particularly difficult.”

This entry was posted on Friday, February 5th, 2010 at 10:50 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Authors
Grid Unlocked is powered by two eco-preneurs who analyze and reference articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between smart meters, smart grids, and above all: smart markets.

Based on decades of experience and interest in conservation, Monty Simus and Jamie Workman believe that a truly “smart” grid must be a “transactive” grid, unshackled from its current status as a so-called “natural monopoly.”

In short, an unlocked grid must adopt and harness the power of markets to incentivize individual users, linked to each other on a large scale, who change consumptive behavior in creative ways that drive efficiency and bring equity to use of the planet's finite and increasingly scarce resources.