Archive for the ‘utilities’ Category

Google electrifies power consumers by pairing its free PowerMeter software with a power monitor provider; sideteps public utility monopolies

October 9th, 2009 No comments

“If you cannot measure it; You cannot improve it.”

— Lord Kelvin

I noted in February (“Empowering power consumers: Google beta tests software to give consumers real-time info“) that Google, whose climate change-related efforts I’ve blogged about previously,
has been beta testing a new “PowerMeter” software that – when coupled with a “Smart Meter” installed by the local utility – will help consumers to measure, track and compare their real-time
electric usage, thereby allowing them to make better choices as to when
and how they use electricity, and to better match such use
to the pricing programs of their utilities. Google testers
have found that the software allows them to relatively easily cut use
(by an average of 15%), and to save on their electricity bills by an
even greater percentage.

Google has just announced that it has side-stepped the need for consumers to wait for their utility to install a smart meter, by partnering directly with TED (“The Energy Detective“), the provider of the TED 5000 device, presently priced at about $200, that consumers can  have attached to their power supply.

More information is here (from The Energy Circle, which has been testing PowerMeter with an earlier TED device) and here (CNET).

Next up? Hope springs eternal that developments like this will remind policy makers, pundits, pressure groups (like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and browbeating enviros like Joe Romm) that the real reason for the nasty public squabbling over “green” power mandates and subsidies (as I noted in a recent post about Steven Milloy`s railing about “evil” GE and federal stimulus
) is the fact that power markets are not free, but are burdened by sweet – and horrifically inefficient – cost+ deals to the public utilities. As I noted previously:

While there are plenty of root causes for the calls for legislative
and regulatory mandates in favor of clean / green / renewable power,
such as:

  • concerns about climate change,
  • the political deal in favor of dirty coal under the Clean Air Act, 
  • the enduring role of the federal and state governments in owning
    vast coal fields (the royalties from which it does not distribute to
    citizens but go into the General Pork Pool), 
  • the unwillingness of state courts, in the face of the political
    power of the mining industry, to protect persons and private from
    pollution and environmental disruption created by mining,
  • the deep involvement of the government in developing, encouraging and regulating nuclear power,

the most obvious and proximate root
cause is something that attracts far too little attention – the
frustration of consumer demand for green energy, and the inefficient
and inaccurate pricing and supply of electricity
.  It`s prettty clear that the
grant of public utility monopolies and the regulation of the pricing
and investments by utilities greatly restrict the freedom of power
markets, from the ability of consumers to choose their provider, to the
freedom of utilities to determine what infrastructure to invest in, to
even simple information
as to the cost of power as it varies by time of day and season, and the amount power consumers use by time of day or appliance.

With freer markets, we would see much more competition, better
pricing, much more cost-saving (and conservation), and more money
flowing into green power. So why is so little attention being paid to
all of the gains that could be achieved from less – and more rational –
power regulation?