Only As Good As Google’s Numbers

on June 29, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Google shrugged off the impact of its abandonment of the Power Meter initiative this week with the release of a new report that sought to underline just how important data is to developing a clean energy future.

The internet search giant has become increasingly interested in the energy sector across its business, with direct investments in renewable energy projects as well as financing for leasing programs designed to ease domestic solar installations as part of a widening energy portfolio.

The company had a mixed week in its slow incursion into the energy world, saying in a low-key announcement it would retire its voluntary energy use monitoring platform Power Meter but releasing a wide-ranging online report detailing the potential benefits of clean energy innovations using a forecasting tool devised by the consulting firm McKinsey.

Raising Awareness, Not Pulses

The Power Meter program retirement was met with resounding silence in the electricity industry, which is struggling to wear down customer resistance to smart meter installation and still working to standardize data requirements and formats across single companies much less the broader industry. With so much uncertainty, the Power Meter program was neither sophisticated enough to form a competing product nor sufficiently simple to allow for automated uploads as Google intended.

Google said in retiring the program that it originally launched Power Meter as an awareness initiative through its philanthropic arm,, which was also responsible for this week’s report, Clean Energy Innovation.

Power Meter was designed to “raise awareness about the importance of giving people access to their energy information.” The Power Meter program will not be open to new users, but existing users can export their data from the platform through September 16, 2011.

The company’s focus on data has been echoed by many service providers to the energy business, including IBM and SAP. Smart meters and early implementation of smart grid have underlined the massive amounts of potential data available to utilities, consumers and regulators as new two-way smart grid communication devices are developed.

Building models of potential future scenarios using that data constitutes an even more complex challenge, Google admits. The firm admitted in announcing its report’s detailed results that “getting [breakthroughs in clean energy] will take the right mix of policies, sustained investment in technological innovation by public and private institutions and mobilization of the sector’s entrepreneurial energies.”