I first heard about Google PowerMeter in the spring of 2009. I was telling a friend of mine who works at Southface about this idea I had for this website that would allow homeowners to compare their energy consumption with their neighbors and he said, "That sounds a lot like what Google just announced with PowerMeter". At first I thought, "Great, there goes the novelty of my idea". But then I realized that Google was taking interest in the same thing I was - helping homeowners save energy - and that could only be a good thing. But after 2.5 years of PowerMeter, Google is calling it quits. The main reason: lack of interest. I can't say this is a surprise, because Google isn't the only one to leave the home energy monitoring space. Microsoft just announced similar plans to change course with their project, Microsoft Hohm.
The update from Google on the PowerMeter can be seen below:
"We first launched Google PowerMeter as a Google.org project to raise awareness about the importance of giving people access to their energy information. Since our launch, there's been more attention brought to this issue, and we're excited that PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance of access to energy data. However, our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would have liked, so we have decided to retire PowerMeter.
You will continue to have access to the product until September 16, 2011, after which time you will no longer be able to access your PowerMeter account. We know that having access to your energy information has helped you save energy and money. There are many options available for you from our device and utility partners. Please visit this page to learn more: http://www.google.com/support/powermeter/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1342532
We also understand that having your historical energy data is important to you. We've made it easy for you to download your data. To export your PowerMeter data to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file, log in to your account and go to "Account Settings." More information can be found here: http://www.google.com/support/powermeter/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=164264
We appreciate your understanding and hope that you've enjoyed using Google PowerMeter. If you have questions about this announcement, please visit our FAQ pages at http://www.google.com/powermeter/about/faqs.html"
Are you surprised by this announcement? I can't really say that I am. PowerMeter was a cool application, but aside from showing people my home's real time energy consumption on my iPhone a few times, I never really used it as a tool to lower my energy consumption. And that seems to be the problem with energy monitoring websites/apps that only show you your consumption, but not exactly where you are using it and how you can use less. Sure, PowerMeter gave tips to change my bulbs to CFLs or turn down my thermostat, but I already do this! I wanted to know how many hours out of the day my AC ran when the outside temperature was over 90° F. I want to know if my refrigerator is using more electricity than it should, or how many kWh my dryer uses in a month. Only when we have that level of detail do I think energy monitoring will catch on for the masses.
Luckily there are a few devices out there that will allow you to monitor each electrical branch. Some of these are eMonitor and Fido by EcoDog . Computerized Electricity Systems even lets you monitor and control each circuit in your house! There are even websites that will analyze signals sent by your TED 5000 and determine how and where you are using your electricity (more to come on this in the next few months). But the problems with these solutions is that they cost too much for the mainstream, and my hope was the free PowerMeter would eventually add more device partners and evolve into a more sophisticated platform at the same time that energy monitoring devices costs fell, but the masses appetite for energy monitoring couldn't keep pace with this energy geek's hopes.
Now that two of the biggest names in the home energy monitoring game are shifting their focus, I wonder what other big players are next? In fact, a few months ago I was going to write a post about the bubble I was seeing in the home energy monitoring space, with seemingly more players than there were willing customers. Of course, not everyone is giving up just yet, and BlueLine's PowerCost Monitor is telling its users how they can easily switch from PowerMeter to Hohm.
The reason why these monitoring applications aren't really taking off is summed up nicely from a friend who works in the business:
In all of this, we must not lose sight of the fact that every scientific study and examination of every energy conservation project involving the use of real time energy monitors reached the same conclusion.
It is the "in your face" energy consumption information on a dedicated display that causes people to use less energy, not access to information on a computer or i phone. When it comes to controlling
loads remotely, there are a variety of options to choose from which even include smart phone applications.
This is but a bump in the road Chris, and if Google thought that their power meter platform would produce more interest than it has then their marketers missed the mark or were ill advised because
men like us understand that getting people to monitor, manage, and conserve energy will continue to be an uphill battle until electricity costs a lot more than it does now (emphasis mine).
And that last sentence says it all. We can't create all these devices and tools to help homeowners save energy if most homeowners don't really want to take the necessary steps to save energy. Right now home energy costs haven't hit a pain point for most people. Nobody (aside from efficiency geeks) in the U.S. wanted high mileage vehicles until gasoline started regularly selling about $2.50 per gallon. People abandoning their beloved SUV's was related to transportation energy costs. Why should home energy costs be any different? Google had a nice tool with PowerMeter, but it also showed us how little most people care about monitoring their cheap energy. Let's figure out what tools really start making a difference.
Related Posts: Google PowerMeter, MS Hohm: RIP (TED 5000, Go To Hell)