Paving a path to intelligent energy use

1/14/13 | 6:30:00 AM

One of the best parts about working at Google is the chance to use the Internet and digital technology to help us all manage energy better. We’ve seen big changes in recent years to the way we watch TV, use phones, read and listen to music, yet how we use electricity hasn’t changed much in decades.

What if instead of a monthly bill we had access to more real-time and actionable information about our electricity consumption? What if our appliances, air conditioners, and lights adjusted automatically to use energy more efficiently and save money? If we did this in every home it would help improve the reliability of the grid and save billions of dollars.

Technology like smart meters and programmable thermostats make it possible to do this today. The challenge is that the rules governing electricity distribution were written for last century’s grid. That’s why Google.org is giving a $2.65M grant to the Energy Foundation to support policy reforms that will lead to more intelligent energy use. The effort will focus on three fundamental areas:

  • Smarter electricity rates that encourage consumers to be more efficient, shift their electricity use to times when it’s cheaper and produce their own on-site energy; 
  • Access to electricity markets for consumers and other businesses so they can be compensated for cutting energy use at key times; and 
  • Open data policies that give customers access to their own energy data, which they can use or share with third parties they select, promoting better energy management tools and services.
These policy reforms, coupled with the new technologies now being deployed on a large scale, can empower consumers to make smarter energy choices, improve real-time management of the electricity grid, and help facilitate more renewable energy all while lowering overall costs.

We hope this grant will help catalyze change and look forward to seeing progress in the years to come.

Posted by Michael Terrell, Senior Policy Counsel, Energy & Sustainability