Google Urges Obama To Back Smart Grid Technology


Google, HP and General Electric have asked President Obama to make it easier for mobile phones and other Web-enabled gadgets to be used to manage energy usage

Google, Hewlett-Packard and General Electric are among the 47 companies and organisations asking President Obama to grant people the power to “monitor and manage their energy consumption … via their computers, phones or other [Web-enabled] devices.”

Google and its fellows urged the president in a 5 April letter to facilitate a smart grid that would provide resources and tools to not only educate users about their power consumption, but enable them to turn off lights in their homes from miles away.

The parties argued in the letter that if U.S. citizens practiced home energy efficiency and “saved 15 percent on their energy use by 2020, for example, the greenhouse gas savings would be equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road and would save consumers $46 billion (£30bn) on their energy bills, or $360 per customer each year.”

“What if we instead had access to more useful and actionable information about our energy consumption?” Google said in a blog post on 5 April. “What if consumers could use this information to automatically adjust appliances, lights and other equipment to save money and cut energy use?”

Google, which uses data centres that consume enormous amounts of electricity all over the world to power its search and cloud computing services, has been an aggressive proponent of progressive energy and power management.

Google in February received the right to buy and sell power from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Though it is not yet clear how Google will use its position, the company has been active in trying to balance the growth of its cloud computing clout while curbing power consumption.

To wit, a smart grid the way Google imagines it would necessitate the implementation of applications and other tools for home energy conservation.

Google already offers PowerMeter, a software gadget that shows users detailed information about their home electricity consumption.

But Google and the other companies told Obama in their letter that the effort requires “clear rules on consumer access to information; incentives to promote the deployment of technologies, including cost recovery; programs that educate and engage both providers and energy users; and encouragement of diverse technologies. Robust privacy and security protection for consumers and their information is essential.”

Specifically, the group asked the president to lead “federal agencies, states, industry and other stakeholders to determine the best strategies, programs and policies needed to meet the goal of providing consumers access to [and control over] their energy information.”

The group also wants the president to “encourage the purchase and installation of technologies, devices and methods of delivery” that facilitate this effort.

Smart grids may well be the wave of the future. The Energy Department tabled $3.9 billion in grants for smart grid projects, but these grants were delayed over a disagreement about whether they should be designated as taxable income.

Google and its fellow supporters noted the Obama administration’s recognition of the current National Broadband Plan and asked for similar support for the smart grid.

Google on 6 April is hosting an event to discuss this smart grid technology plan with senior White House energy official Carol Browner, director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, as well as corporate leaders.

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