Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Open standards for a smart electric grid

How would you feel if your gas station taped over the meters on the gas pump, preventing you from seeing how much gasoline you had just bought or how much you had to pay? What if you ran your credit card through but didn't see a receipt -- or at least not until the end of the month? This is how we buy electricity today.

But there's good news: Congress recently provided $4.5 billion to build a smarter electricity grid that can empower consumers with information about their electricity consumption. Studies have shown that having such consumer energy information in real-time can reduce energy use by 5 to 15 percent.

Edward Lu, Google's Program Manager for Advanced Projects and a former astronaut, testified today on this topic before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Ed stressed that energy information should be provided to consumers in as close to real time as practical. And that information should be provided using open, non-proprietary standards that drive innovation and competition, and that will guard against technology obsolescence as the smart grid evolves.

The smart grid is essentially a nascent energy Internet. Thanks to the open protocols and standards on which it was built, the Internet has grown into a thriving ecosystem, delivering innovative products and services to billions of users worldwide. Applying the same principles of openness to our nation's electric grid would create a smarter platform for products and services, helping consumers conserve energy and save money.

Check out Ed's full testimony and a video recording of the hearing. Also, check out Google PowerMeter to get a preview of the sorts of consumer applications that could be built around a smart grid.


Greg H said...

I agree 100%. Not only is this important from an open innovation perspective, it's also a civil liberties/personal privacy issue. Some utilities have already begun asserting control/ownership of an individual's data. If consumers don't speak up now, during the standards creation phase, the utilities will get their way and the smart grid will be closed to open innovation for years, if not decades.

See the discussion in my post Get your grubby hands off of my HAN at Grid Insight.

ray said...

This power usage information has ALWAYS been available to the homeowner. The problem has always been there has been no product justification. You can easily monitor your usage with simple electrical supply equipment, and a few hours of licensed electrical work. Just because the utility company doesn't provide it to you doesn't mean it is not there. Here is what we are asking for when we want the utility company to provide this data: Please charge us extra every month because I am told it will help me use less, of course the extra cost they will charge will probably offset the savings per month for many years. I applaud and encourage the use of home power monitoring equipment, but lets keep utility companies, and thier shareholders needs, out of the discussions. We can create an open standard for power data communications without thier input.

Casas said...

I would love to get a bill from the electric company that was as detailed as my cell phone bill. I would even love to have the option to go online and see exactly what my usage was during a certain day and time even if the bill at the end of the month was a lump sum. I have seen a couple of solutions and the affordable products (under a couple of hundred dollars) as so basic it take a lot of time to factor in. Then there is the other end of the spectrum where the product that is the best, like the "Building Dashboard" cost $10,000. I mean come on the only way people are going to take more ownership and try to reduce costs is if they feel it is mainstream and not something that is only for the elite or super wealthy. I think what Google.org is doing is fantastic and I wish I was a part of. I think I got a smart meter on my house since it was built just a few months ago and I would even pay them to be in the beta program (a reasonable fee not some uberexpensive fee) to help do my part in reducing my carbon footprint. Go Google.