A Fond Farewell To Google PowerMeter as the Revolution Rolls On

News from Google that they’ll be pulling the plug on Google PowerMeter in September is a cautionary tale of what it takes to thrive in the smart energy industry.

There should be no doubt that Google PowerMeter was a milestone in raising awareness about the importance of providing consumers with access to their energy usage information. That said, from its inception, Google PowerMeter had two key shortcomings.

Unfortunately, Google PowerMeter was not available on a universal scale. Many, many consumers with an interest in having access to information on their energy usage were unable to use it because their utilities were not part of PowerMeter. This has less to do with Google than it does with the ongoing debate around providing consumers with access to data—a fundamental prerequisite if consumers are ever to be fully empowered to manage their energy usage.

But beyond scaling issues, the end of Google PowerMeter highlights a key fact, one that anyone involved in the smart energy industry over the last few years is acutely aware of; namely, that providing consumers with data about their energy use without any context is not enough to spur action. To truly engage energy users, consumers must be armed with actionable, personalized information in a supportive active learning environment.

Consumer access to energy usage information is imperative, but in and of itself, it is not enough to engage consumers and more importantly, create sustained behavioral change.

Our own extensive research and pilots have clearly demonstrated that when consumers have access to energy usage information presented in a clear, digestible manner and they are provided with the tools and support to change their energy consumption, they can achieve significant energy savings. For example, in a pilot in Cape Cod, participants using our consumer engagement web portal saw sustained energy savings of more than 9 percent, without using any home area network hardware. In addition, they remained engaged in managing their energy use.

We spent the last several years researching what it takes to meaningfully engage consumers. We are constantly working on analytics to personalize and enrich the consumer experience. This led to the development of Tendril Energize—our suite of consumer engagement applications that includes a web portal and mobile apps for the iPhone and Android. In fact, earlier this week we announced the first shipments of this Tendril Energize to Cape Light Compact, KCP&L and Origin Energy.

Tendril Energize runs on top of our powerful, cloud-based platform—Tendril Connect—that is completely scalable and secure, to accommodate the growing number of consumers and energy service providers looking to better manage energy and improve grid reliability. The platform combines advanced algorithms, behavioral science and proprietary building models, which allows the personalization of the information to each individual consumer and their needs. Equally important, the Tendril Connect platform was built on open standards, in order to work with the increasing numbers of existing, emerging and future smart devices, appliances, electric vehicles and other applications that will undoubtedly capture the imagination of consumers.

Our belief is that by connecting energy service providers, consumers and third party product and service partners, like Whirlpool Corporation, who are developing the smart energy applications and devices, that we can unlock the data and the value of the things that consume energy and achieve a higher return on energy for all stakeholders. Our powerful platform allows us to evolve as the industry evolves and to foster innovation by allowing a whole host of applications to be built on our platform.

No one knows what the killer app of home energy management is and this market is rapidly evolving. In fact it’s moving so quickly it’s less of an evolution; it’s a revolution. It’s disruptive technology that can change the landscape quickly.

Google PowerMeter was a high profile and noble effort by a forward-thinking company to kick start the home energy management market. We’ll be sorry to see it go.