Hoping to promote greater energy efficiency and to jump-start the nascent market for consumer energy monitoring technology, a group of 45 major companies and organizations -- including AT&T, GE, Google, Intel, and various advocacy, investment, and trade organizations -- on Monday asked President Obama in an open letter to promote greater consumer access to energy usage data.
"We are writing to ask that your Administration adopt the goal of giving every household and business access to timely, useful and actionable information on their energy use," the letter says. "By giving people the ability to monitor and manage their energy consumption, for instance, via their computers, phones or other devices, we can unleash the forces of innovation in homes and businesses."
The letter precedes a meeting that Google is hosting in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to discuss innovation in home energy usage.
It claims that the deployment of technology for home appliance automation and monitoring and other investments in home energy efficiency have the potential to deliver major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and substantial savings on energy bills.
Energy bills, argues Google's energy policy counsel Michael Terrell in a blog post, are too hard to decipher. The assumption here is that greater billing clarity will lead to greater energy conservation.
Google has said that when provided with access to energy usage information, consumers tend to reduce their energy usage, sometimes by as much as 15%.
A study conducted by McKinsey & Co. suggests that an investment of $520 billion over the next over the next 10 years could reduce national energy demand by 23% and result in $1.2 trillion in savings to the U.S. economy.
The letter asks the White House to work with federal, state, and local agencies to develop programs and policies that promote greater consumer access to energy usage information and that demand robust privacy and security protections.
It asks that the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency make energy information access something that's considered in relevant rulemaking.
It seeks to promote the purchase and installation of technology that enhances energy information access.
And it asks the White House to convene a summit on empowering consumers through energy information access.
The security of the emerging "smart grid" and "smart meters" remains a concern. InGuardians, a security firm, has identified a number of vulnerabilities in these systems that could be used to affect customers' power bills or turn off their power. However, such risks can be mitigated, the company insists.
Google has been promoting improved access to information about energy usage since February 2009, when it announced that it was working on Google PowerMeter, software designed to allow users to receive energy usage data from compatible "smart meters."
In May 2009, Google announced partnerships with eight national and international energy companies to facilitate consumer access to energy usage data through its PowerMeter gadget.