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Google plugs in PowerMeter partners

Google has unveiled the first set of utility and smart meter manufacturing partners as part of its PowerMeter project.

The project aims to bring information about energy usage into electricity customers' homes. It is provided as a Google Gadget that can be installed on a home computer, providing a graph of how much electricity is being used throughout the day. Smart meters, or electricity measuring devices in a users' home, must be made compatible with the Google Data API, which is why the firm is working with utilities and manufacturers with the ultimate goal of hooking into as many customers' homes as possible.

The initial batch of partners is restricted to the US, Canada and India, with most of the partners in the US. San Diego Gas & Electric picked up the California partnership, TXU Energy scooped Texas, JEA will be working in Florida, and Wisconsin's partnership will be covered by the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. In Missouri, the White River Valley Electric Cooperative will work with Google, while Glasgow EPB will handle Kentucky.

The only Canadian partner announced was Toronto Hydro, which established a Wi-Fi mesh network as part of a broader project to install wireless smart meters a couple of years ago. In India, Google will be working with Reliance Energy.

The firm is also working with smart meter manufacturer Itron, it said.

Hal Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for San Diego Gas and Electric, said that the PowerMeter deal was the first step in a broader smart grid initiative that the company had been developing.

"It's part of a bigger project that we have, called the Customer Energy network," he said, predicting a time when customers might be able to remotely control appliances in their homes via a computer, to save on energy. "The vision for the future isn't just providing information to the customers' homes, but it's also enabling customers to use that information, and more efficiently use energy in their homes."

Earlier this month, the search giant submitted comments in response to a Department of Energy notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement for the smart grid investment programme. It called for direct benefits to energy consumers as a key criterion when assessing funding applications, and included an explicit request to have applicants provide information to consumers about their energy usage.

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