On Wednesday of last week, first:utility, a UK energy company, announced that it had become the first UK partner for Google’s PowerMeter. As we covered in a previous blog, PowerMeter is an application that allows users to see a near real-time display of their energy
usage on their computers or mobile phones.
first:utility is a new residential energy supplier, having launched into the sector just over a year ago. It now has 30,000 customers and claims to be the only UK energy supplier to provide free smart meters, which it is rolling out across the UK. Currently, customers can get energy usage patterns from a Home Display Unit or usage and cost information online from the first:utility web site. PowerMeter is an alternative means to view and manage energy consumption. The PowerMeter service will be free and is due to go live this month.
Ed Lu, Google PowerMeter’s lead engineer, said: “We share a vision with first:utility of providing consumers with access to information about their own home electricity use that will help them save energy and money. We need the help of innovative utility companies like first:utility to get Google
PowerMeter into the hands of consumers, and we are delighted about this very first UK utility partnership.”
On the same day, AlertMe, a home energy management service company, announced the launch of an online energy monitoring service called AlertMe Energy. The service includes the self-install hardware – a meter reader that clips on to the home electric meter plus a hub that plugs into the broadband connection - with web browser-based monitoring integrated with PowerMeter. The company says it’s the first self-install consumer device company to partner with Google and the only one with a product available in the UK.
The point here is that with devices like AlertMe consumers don't need a smart meter installed to monitor energy usage and to use PowerMeter. Here’s Google’s Ed Lu again: “The combination of AlertMe and Google PowerMeter gives consumers a complete solution for monitoring home energy use and costs. We want to empower consumers to take energy information into their own hands and we are excited to work closely with AlertMe on this initiative.”
AlertMe has announced a trial with British Gas to provide AlertMe Smart Home Energy products in UK homes, which means that AlertMe Energy can be purchased directly from British Gas. AlertMe Energy costs £69.00 for the basic hardware plus £2.99 per month for the online service (the press release quotes an annual service cost of £99.00, but that, hopefully, is a mistake. There won’t be many takers otherwise).
These two announcements underline the different approaches to empowering consumers to monitor and manage their energy usage - either with smart meters or without. But whichever route is used, Google is likely to be supplying the software at the end of it. It didn’t get so big by accident.