Google pulls the plug on PowerMeter energy tool

Google PowerMeter Moving Closer to Smart Appliances

Google has officially pulled the plug on its web energy management tool PowerMeter. The project, which Google launched two years ago, just “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped,” says Google in a blog post, and the tool will be shut down Sept. 16, 2011 (giving users enough time to download their data before the end of the service).

PowerMeter has seemed to have been on life support for much of the time it’s been in existence, and last I heard, it had brought in just 11,000 users. Turns out it’s difficult for a large Internet company to convince utilities to partner with it, and it’s also hard to get consumers to care about energy consumption. At the same time,¬†PowerMeter was closely tied to smart meter data when it was first launched, and smart meter installations were still in an early stage back in 2009 (and still are).

PowerMeter enabled its users to monitor and manage their energy consumption online via an iGoogle widget, if the utility had agreed to connect their smart meter data with Google. Utility San Diego Gas & Electric and smart meter maker Itron became Google PowerMeter partners. Later, Google opened up the PowerMeter API and connected with gadget makers to make it more of a direct-to-consumer tool.

PowerMeter stemmed out of Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org, and Google long said it didn’t plan to make any money off of the tool. Well, that turned out to be true. Other companies that have launched services and gadgets in the home energy management space have changed course or folded. Microsoft launched a similar tool to PowerMeter called Hohm, which it later evolved.

Still, Google’s moves are often influential, even if they aren’t profitable. Google’s launch of PowerMeter worried startup competitors and entrepreneurs at the time, and scared some utilities who didn’t want Google owning the relationship with its power customers. PowerMeter also brought a lot of attention to a space that, for the most part, can be less-than-sexy.

Google shutting down PowerMeter will also draw attention. Startup Wattvision, which makes a low-cost energy home energy management tool, wrote on its blog yesterday that it’s offering a $50-off coupon for this weekend only — use the coupon code: “byepowermeter”.

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