Google PowerMeter hits the UK

The smart-grid software that allows people to monitor their home-energy use via the internet has been launched in the UK

Google PowerMeter, an online tool that allows users to monitor their home-energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions via the web, has arrived in the UK.

The free software will initially be available to UK customers who purchase an energy kit and accompanying subscription from device maker AlertMe, Google announced in a blog post on Tuesday. The AlertMe package costs £69 for the hardware, with an additional monthly subscription fee of £2.99.

Alternatively, homeowners can switch to energy company First Utility, which supplies customers with free smart meters but will not provide the full Google PowerMeter service until early November. The energy company has 30,000 UK subscribers to its smart meter service, according to Google.

The UK launch follows the introduction of PowerMeter in February in the US, where Google has been pushing for government programmes to modernise the power grid. In addition, rival Microsoft has been working on smart-grid technology, and has developed guidelines to help utility companies cope with handling real-time energy data.

PowerMeter works by tapping into a smart grid, in which smart meters and energy-management devices send data on a building's energy usage to the utility company. The PowerMeter can present a particular home's data to the customer on an iGoogle page. This allows the customer to monitor their home-energy usage from anywhere in the world using a internet-enabled phone or computer.

According to Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm, the tool is designed to help people understand how they use energy and help them to cut their usage.

"At the end of the day, if you can't measure and view your energy use, it's very difficult to make savings," said Mark Daeche, chief executive of First Utility, as quoted in the Google blog.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, trials carried out in countries such as Sweden and the US have suggested that smart meters can reduce energy bills by around five to 10 percent.

Last year, the British government announced that every UK home would use smart meters by 2020. The Energy Saving Trust expects around 26 million UK homes to be fitted with smart meters over the next 10 years — the biggest planned rollout of smart meters in any country so far.

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