In a surprise move Google has announced that it is going to ‘retire’ Google PowerMeter, its home electricity monitoring tool, on September16th this year because it “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped”.
PowerMeter was designed to show consumers their home energy information, almost in real time, on their computer. The idea was that the application would help consumers better manage their electricity use, particularly since research showed that access to energy information results in savings of 5-15% in electricity usage.
However, according to a blog from Bill Weihl, Google’s Green Energy Czar, PowerMeter “didn't scale as we had hoped”, but the company believes the product did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it’s traditionally been difficult.
Google points out that since the launch of PowerMeter more attention has been given to the notion of people easily accessing their energy data and the installation of smart meters and other home energy devices is picking up steam. Particularly since the White House announced a goal of giving all consumers access to their energy usage in computer-friendly formats as part of a national plan for modernising the electricity grid.
“It’s exciting to see others drive innovation and pursue opportunities in this important new market. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished with PowerMeter and look forward to what will develop next in this space”.
PowerMeter has been around since February 2009 and in June 2010 CNET reported that Google was looking to expand the product into other areas such as natural gas and other utilities in the home. At the time, Dan Reicher, director of climate change initiatives at Google, also said that Google was working on "demand dispatch", which is the way that software and the Internet can be used to act as a go-between for home users and the grid to keep a balance of supply and demand.
It does look like the market has overtaken Google on this one. In early 2009 giving users clear information on their electricity usage might have seemed innovative, but it has become generally accepted as part of the smart grid/smart meter implementation. Google’s particular strength is in online apps, whereas a wide range of communication and information technologies is being brought to bear in this area, often from dedicated specialist companies. It seems to have made the market less attractive to Google.
But it’s also increasingly tied up with a broader Home Energy Management (HEM) and Home Area Networks (HAN) market, which, potentially, could have a huge impact on home ICT users. I would be very surprised if Google doesn’t want to get involved in this area of green IT somewhere, which would explain the ‘what will develop next in this space’ comment.