I emailed Chris Dalby of Current Cost a question about their devices a few weeks ago. Chris, not only answered my question but also offered to send me one of their energy monitors to try for myself!
I love my Current Cost Envi 128. It is incredibly straightforward to setup – even I could do it, despite living in an apartment complex with no access to the electricity meter. I had mine up and running within minutes of receiving the delivery (I attached the clamp to the wire going into the fuseboard)!
One of the really great things about the Current Cost energy meters is that they can be connected to a computer. This may not sound like a big deal but it means you can use software from the downloads page to chart your energy usage in real-time as well as for storing historical data. This allows for fascinating comparisons of energy use across different scenarios.
The software for Google PowerMeter is available on the Current Cost site [after registration]. One disappointing aspect of the Powermeter software is that it is Windows only. Fortunately I have Windows installed (via Parallels) on my Mac so this wasn’t a major issue for me.
The biggest issue I came across with the Current Cost Envi and PowerMeter software is, if you want an accurate picture of your energy use, you need to leave your computer turned on running the PowerMeter software all the time! Obviously this is not very energy-efficient!
Now, we have all heard about the compelling case for Smart Meters for electrical consumption (I have written and spoken about it extensively) but in this study Oracle asked utilities and their customers about the benefits of rolling out Smart Meters for managing water consumption.
Part of the reason for undertaking this study was that water shortages are already being seen in the South East United States, Western Canada, and Southern California.
At least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.
Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day at home.
Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures such as leaky toilets and faucets. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks—it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
The average [US] household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill and can save about $170 per year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
Some of the results of the Oracle water study show that:
68% of water utility managers believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies
76% of consumers are concerned about the need to conserve water in their community
69% of consumers believe they could reduce their personal water use
71% of consumers believe receiving more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use
83% of water utilities who have completed a cost- benefit analysis support the adoption of smart meter technology
So, the public is concerned about water conservation and believes that more information would help them reduce their consumption of water. The majority of utility managers also believe smart meter technologies are critical, so things are looking rosy so far.
The data output from smart electricity meters is extremely granular and yields very specific energy footprints. With this data it is trivial to identify the devices using the energy down to make and model of the machine. However, this is not the case for smart water meters. Their output is far less granular – it will be quite difficult to map water consumption data from smart meters to individual devices within the house (unless there are flow meters attached to all the devices using water, for example).
What if though, you could tie-in the output of your electrical smart meter and your water smart meters? Analysing the data from the two meters it should be possible to identify at least some of the devices using water (fridge, dish washer, electric shower, etc.). Having this information tied-in to make and model of device would be extremely useful to help identify more water efficient appliances.
Because, for the most part, your water and electricity utilities are separate companies (or different business units within a utility), this is not a solution they are likely to pursue. However, there has been a surge in the number of 3rd party companies working on Home Management Software applications/devices.
With consumer’s actively interested in receiving more information about their energy and water usage and with the value that this data has, it is a no-brainer that Home Management Software will manage water consumption as well as energy in time.
How long before it is mandatory that all devices which consume water have networked flow meters and all homes have smart water meters?
There is no doubt about it but Google is a disruptive company.
First Google disrupted search, then advertising, then video (with their acquisition of YouTube), and then Office applications with the launch and continued development of Google Apps for Domains. Most recently Google has disrupted the mobile phone industry, first with the launch of their Android operating system and just a couple of days ago with the launch of their Nexus One mobile phone.
Curious about what all this meant I contacted Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick to try to get some answers – see my questions and her responses below:
TR: What was the thinking behind Google’s setting up Google Energy? Why is Google applying to the FERC for permission to trade in electricity?
NF: Google is interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, and the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market could give us more flexibility in doing so. We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations, including our data centers.
TR: Google has made some investments in renewable generation (solar, geothermal and wind), does Google hope to take on the utilities by selling electricity? How does this tie into Google’s PowerMeter project?
NF: This move does not signal our intent to operate as a retail provider and is not related to our free Google PowerMeter home energy monitoring software. We simply want to have the flexibility to explore various renewable energy purchase and sale agreements (that means we can buy electricity wholesale, rather than through a utility).
TR: Will Google Energy be used to develop more Smart Grid products?
NF: We don’t have any plans to announce at this time.
TR: How does this tie into Google’s partnership with GE?
NF: This move isn’t related to our partnership with GE.
So there you have it, according to Google this application to trade in electricity on the wholesale market is simply to gain more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations, as part of Google’s carbon neutrality commitment.
Google have no plans to become a retail electricity provider.