Google Enters Smart Grid; Will They Pass the Transactive Test?

Lynne Kiesling

Just a quick note because I am teaching at a workshop for judges … Google announced today that it is entering the smart grid space, as discussed in this CNet article:

The driving idea behind the Google PowerMeter iGoogle gadget–and nearly all smart-grid companies–is that giving consumers access to more detailed home energy data will lead to lower usage. There are dozens of smart-grid trial programs now going on, offered through utilities.

Engineer Russ Mirov, one of the Google employees testing the software, was able to reduce his electricity use 64 percent over the past year, saving $3,000, by replacing inefficient refrigerators and running his pool pump at scheduled intervals.

Google cites figures showing that regularly viewing real-time energy use will prod people to cut electricity by 5 percent to 15 percent on average through behavioral changes. The product is now in private beta.

It’s no surprise to hear this news from Google, nor is it a surprise that Google is pursuing a different, innovative business model:

With its smart-grid push, Google is seeking to appeal directly to consumers, rather than working through utility-sponsored programs. Typically, smart-grid companies sell to utilities, giving them smart meters and software to help them operate the power grid more efficiently. As part of those programs, consumers can often get real-time information on energy use.

This is a welcome change.

But will Google’s PowerMeter pass my transactive test?

Is your device transactive? Can it be programmed to respond autonomously to price signals? Can it be programmed to respond to some other type of communication that the consumer can receive under his/her contract with his/her retailer? Can the consumer access the device remotely to change its settings?