Your electic bill: Google & Microsoft are competing to help

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Both Google and Microsoft are working with utility companies to provide you with electricity-usage data. How much is it costing you to finish watching that television sitcom? How much does it cost to do another load of laundry? Most of us have no idea. But, with these competing software programs and others, you will soon be able to answer such questions by monitoring your own electricity consumption. So what makes this possible?

In February of this year congress with some help from the president spent $787 billion on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Included in that package is a "bigger smarter grid" and 40 million "Smart Meters" for American homes [1]. So, with there being about 130 million homes in the United States [2], and 40 million smart meters, it seems to me that approximately one out of three of my US readers should have a smart meter in the near future.

Broadly speaking, there are two important uses for smart meters:

  1. Real time pricing: Utilities can charge different rates at different times depending on demand and thereby provide incentives for customers to use electricity during 'off-peak' hours.
  2. Consumers can monitor their electricity consumption in intervals ranging from around 15 minutes to real time (depending on the meter) and isolate the specific costs of appliance usage, especially with the help of software, and thereby make smarter choices regarding energy consumption.

Google's software is called Google PowerMeter and is currently being beta tested (and reviewed) by Google employees. Google currently has about a dozen electric utilities as partners. You can see if your town is on the list yet by clicking here. Google also claims to have one of the largest meter manufacturers as a partner. You can visit the programs home page by clicking here: http://www.google.org/powermeter/ .


Like Google, Microsoft is not yet ready for customer/power-meter interaction. Microsoft also has a list of electric-utility companies as partners. Once available, you may choose to upload your electricity usage through the the Hohm application to your participating electric utility.

Microsoft's Hohm program is currently available for sign-up and offers tips based on your energy-use profile. You can sign up for Microsoft's program by clicking here. After signing up for Microsoft Hohm, you enter information about your home (occupants, appliances, etc.). You then receive a detailed report with recommendations for reducing your electricity consumption.



References

  1. White House, Recovery Plan Metrics Report (PDF)
  2. US Census Bureau, American Housing Survey (based on 2007 data)

For more Google Powermeter & news, check the digg, Google and Bing news feeds below:

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Comments

5

Ah, Google and Microsoft in a tussle again.Will be interesting to see who dishes out the better product.
On a ore serious note, the idea is very innovative. It's implementation would help us in finding out what activities are using what amounts of energy.

So when there's a need to cut back on the electricity consumption, we could always rely on the data provided by the software we are using.

Cheers!