Like many firms before it, Google has come to realize that policy and regulation are the biggest obstacles to grid modernization. As Michael Terrell, one of the firm’s senior lobbyists explains on a company blog, “the challenge is that the rules governing electricity distribution were written for last century’s grid.”

Until recently, Google has often preferred to go its own way when seeking to influence policy. This time around, it has decided to fund the Energy Foundation with a $2.65 million grant to support policy reforms in three 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.

“What if instead of a monthly bill we had access to more real-time and actionable information about our electricity consumption?” Terrell wrote. “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.”

By Jesse Berst

Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry’s oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.