Google tool helps consumers reduce energy usage

LOS ANGELES Wed Feb 11, 2009 3:04am GMT

A home under construction in Temecula, California, July 19, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A home under construction in Temecula, California, July 19, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Google Inc on Tuesday said it would use its software skills to help consumers track their home energy usage and thereby lower demand and the global warming emissions that come from producing electricity.

The move is part of Google's effort to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into renewable energy, electricity-grid upgrades and other measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The company has already invested in several fledgling solar, wind and geothermal companies, as well as two "smart grid" companies.

Smart grid describes a more efficient, less costly method of moving electricity along long-distance transmission lines to local power lines and end-users in homes and businesses.

On its official company blog, Google said it is developing a smart grid tool called Google PowerMeter that will show home energy consumption almost in real time on a user's computer.

The company cited studies showing that access to home energy information typically saves between 5 percent and 15 percent on monthly electricity bills.

"It may not sound like much, but if half of America's households cut their energy demand by 10 percent, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off the road," Google said.

Google PowerMeter is currently being tested by employees and is not yet available to the public.

The company hopes to develop partnerships with utilities so it can roll PowerMeter out to consumers in the next few months, spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said.

Google's investments in smart grid companies include Germantown, Maryland-based Current Group and Redwood City, California-based Silver Spring Networks.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Gary Hill)

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