Some utilities have indicated to us that they’ve been uncomfortable with the fact that Google is building software and web tools for energy management and smart meters called PowerMeter. In their eyes, Google’s strong brand could dominate their relationship with the customer. But that hasn’t stopped “Don’t Be Evil” Google from reaching out to the traditional utility industry and the incumbent meter makers, and some are starting to respond positively. On Tuesday night Google, announced on its blog that it has partnered with a list of eight utilities, as well as meter maker Itron, to provide PowerMeter to their customers.
The utilities include San Diego Gas & Electric, TXU Energy, Wisconsin Public Service, White River Valley Electric Cooperative, JEA, Glasgow EPB, Reliance Energy (India), and Toronto Hydro–Electric System (Canada). That’s a very diverse group, with large utilities like SDG&E (1.4 million accounts over a 4,100 square-mile service area) and Reliance Energy (distributes over 5,000 MW to 5 million consumer accounts), as well as very small utilities like Kentucky-based Glasgow EPB and Missouri-based White River Valley Electric Cooperative. Google says the traits that hold the utilities together is that they have installed (or are installing) residential smart meters, and they have “a desire to serve their customers by providing access to detailed information that helps save energy and money.”
Beyond its new utility friends, Google says it is working with smart meter maker Itron, which is one of the leaders in terms of market share. That’s a partnership that will benefit them both. Itron needs help innovating on the software side, as meter hardware becomes a commodity product, and Itron has partnerships with other big utilities for smart meter rollouts, including Southern California Edison and CenterPoint Energy, which will help Google.
Google has previously said it is working with both meter maker conglomerate GE and energy management startup Tendril, but didn’t name either in the partnership announcement. Steve Fludder, VP of GE’s Ecomagination division, told us that GE’s partnership with Google could result in a commercial product, including integrating PowerMeter with GE’s smart meters.
Google’s Tom Sly previously told us that the search engine giant would be launching its tools for both utilities and straight to the consumer this year. So expect a consumer version coming sometime soon. Sly told us that Google is working with device manufacturers to produce something that can mimic a smart meter to work with PowerMeter and give consumers enough data to help them modify their behavior. That could be where a company like Tendril, or WattVision, comes in.