Want to flip open your smart phone and see how much energy your drafty old home is sucking off the power grid while you're slaving away at work? Want to share that data online for a little "green" competition with the neighbors? There's an app for all that. It's called the Google PowerMeter. It's free, too.
Well, sort of free. It requires a special piece of hardware on which the free software is configured and functions.
Minnesotan Ed Kohler, who's at the helm of local blog The Deets
, installed one of the meters a few weeks ago in his home, opting to upload his energy consumption data to Google. He says he can see already how the meter will become "invaluable" as a way to save energy and money through personal energy monitoring and comparing his results to others.
The meter is just one manifestation of Google's entry into energy policy, and its desire to influence the establishment of a so-called "smart grid" that will upgrade the nation's existing power grid to make it more efficient. A smart grid could include utility meters that automatically report power usage, appliances that regulate their own energy use, and battery storage to handle peak power needs, among other concepts. The White House this week said it was going to use $3.4 billion from the federal stimulus package to fund 100 grants aimed at making the smart grid a reality.