Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dow Jones, GreenBeat, ... and the final frontier!

I spent last week in Silicon Valley (where I lived for six years in the 90's), and spoke at a couple of conferences: Dow Jones and GreenBeat. But of course I was mainly there to listen, and I was seeking answers to:
1) Has the US woken-up to climate change?
2) Does the consumer really matter in the US?
...and it was exciting to see that the answer to both questions is an emphatic "yes!"

The likes of Intel and Cisco, and indeed the venture-capital community which created the Silicon Valley phenomenon, are now very strongly focussed on Energy, and see in it an opportunity on the same scale as the internet boom. Veteran investors John Doerr and Vinod Khosla both gave passionate speeches (as did Al Gore). When you look at the amount of money we pay for Energy (far more than any other household service) and the extremely primitive way it is managed, it's not surprising that people are viewing it as a big opportunity. Now I do recognise that Silicon Valley is not America, but it does create much of the future for America. So while I suspect that a lot of people outside of the West and East Coast still remain to understand the profound effects that climate change, energy security and peak oil (and our reactions to adapt) are about to have on their lives, it's great to see that in places like Silicon Valley it is now a hot topic.

And does the consumer matter? As a totally consumer-centric company this question is very important to AlertMe. We know that the consumer does matter in countries like the UK which have a deregulated energy industry, because utilities have to compete for the consumer's business, so they need to compete not just on pricing, but on the quality of the consumer experience, in order to attract and retain customers.
That's not the case in the majority of US states, where utilities are still regulated, meaning that the consumer has no choice of supplier, and everything from rates to services is determined by legislation in the form of the all-powerful PUC (Public Utilities Commissioner). Sounds a bit 1950's, doesn't it - and indeed it is. And so are some of the plans for energy management which sound almost Soviet - for example, Demand Response, where a utility can pull a lever to turn off appliances in your home when there is insufficient supply. This might sound great from a utility perspective, but it's going to be a hard sell to consumers. So I was delighted to see that many of the various panels and discussions did focus on the consumer, the conclusion being that if the consumer - and their in-home devices - aren't engaged in the process by offering them services which are positively attractive to them, then there's a real danger that industry initiatives such as Smart Meters won't achieve anything like the scale of change that is needed.

Speaking of scale, that's something that Ed Lu of Google mentioned a lot in his talk (he mentions AlertMe at around 8 minutes in). Scalability of information is something that telco's and companies like Google understand very well, but utilities now have to play catch-up, moving from a world where historically they took at most one reading a month per consumer, to one where real-time energy information (and control) flows in real-time. Personally I believe that the AMI networks that have been built today, and are still being planned and rolled-out, designed primarily around carrying 15-minute metering data, will be completely inadequate to carry us into our energy future. We already have an effective real-time information network (it's called the Internet) so let's use it!

Having done a press-release with Ed a few weeks back it was great to actually meet him and spend some time with him discussing what we're doing with Google Powermeter. Ed is an astronaut who's been into space three times, spent a lot of time on the ISS, and indeed rode the first Shuttle after the Columbia disaster - so a brave man and a thoroughly nice one too. So (cheesy though it was to ask) I just couldn't resist getting a picture taken to show my children "Daddy with the Astronaut"! Which kind of made my day.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

AlertMe Launch Party in Westminster

AlertMe+Google Powermeter hosted a great Launch party last night in Westminster. About 80 people came, including MP’s, people from DECC, Carbon Trust, BRE, journalists, academics, not-for-profits, utility companies ... and even an energy anthropologist!

Guest speakers were David MacKay (Chief Scientist of DECC) and Jens Redmer (Business Development Director for Google EMEA). Great anecdotes from both speakers, I think we all had a lot of fun (saving the world should be fun!) and you can find a full transcript of the excellent talks right here.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Your home in your hand

See what your home is doing in your hand with AlertMe Energy on your mobile phone. Now you can view and control the power consumption of your whole house on your trusty mobile, no matter where you are.

You can access your home’s energy data on any internet ready mobile phone by browsing to iPhone users can also see a graphical dial to show them exactly how much energy their home is using in a glance.

You can also see the consumption of individual appliances that are connected to Smart Plugs, see which appliances are on or off and even turn smart-plugs on and off directly from your mobile. Great when you’re away from home or on the move. Imagine you’re on your way home and in serious need of a coffee, just turn on the coffee-maker and your coffee could be ready the minute you walk in the door. It could also put an end to those return trips home to see if you left the iron on, simply pull out your mobile and check what’s on or off and if you have left the iron plugged in, just turn off the smart plug – easy!

Plus this also provides an easy way to walk around the house switching things on and off, to see exactly how much power different appliances consume and how much money you could be saving on your energy bills by making some simple changes and turning things off standby.

AlertMe Energy users can simply visit from any mobile phone to view their home’s energy usage optimised for mobile. If you’re not an existing user, find out more about how AlertMe Energy can keep you in touch with your home, wherever you are.