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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Energy efficiency and the Google PowerMeter

Those of us who support energy efficiency do so for a number of reasons, depending upon who we are and what we care about.

I care about lowering my utility bills -- the rates our utilities will be charging in the future will continue to rise: I don't want to get stuck with a bill that is any higher than it has to be.

Further -- all unresolved issues in the debate not withstanding -- common sense tells me that humanity has had a great impact on the environment. Reducing waste is a way of mitigating the impact.

Waste is everywhere -- in what we throw away; the fresh water we allow to run down the drain; and the amount of electricity, natural gas, oil, propane, wood we use to heat our homes and make our lives healthier and more productive than the lives of our forebears.

Which is a long way of saying: I think there is something to climate change. Is it CO2 or some equivalent? The scientists are still trying to find the answers.

But we can do things now that will have a positive impact one way or another.

I read on a PG&E blog that a home in the United States produces twice as much CO2 emissions as an automobile. Maybe so.

But a home definitely uses more energy than it should.

If you want to realize energy savings then you need to know how much you're using right now.

There are a number of tools that will help you estimate usage -- but a new one of great promise is coming over the horizon: The Google PowerMeter.

Twenty years ago my company was involved with a similar project that included Microsoft -- that other big monolith in the IT world. The technology we were looking at would allow you to track energy use in real time. The technology was not ready in the 1980s.

But now, the world has changed and Google is once again way out in front.

Utilities are investing in new IT infrastructure that will allow them to give you the power to analyze in real time the electricity and natural gas usage in your home. PowerMeter takes advantage of that new infrastructure to help you monitor household energy usage.

PowerMeter is being tested now. A few Google employees have been working on the pilot test. Here are some of their experiences.

Check out PowerMeter on Google's website.

We still have a few years to go before this technology is available widely.

But you don’t have to wait – and you shouldn’t wait. You’ll be paying more for energy than you really need to.

To get an estimate, if not a real-time assessment, of your household use, try the resources listed on this earlier entry of Energy Efficiency and Lowering Utility Bills.

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