Open standards for a smart electric grid

How would you feel if your gas station taped over the meters on the gas pump, preventing you from seeing how much gasoline you had just bought or how much you had to pay? What if you ran your credit card through but didn't see a receipt -- or at least not until the end of the month? This is how we buy electricity today.

But there's good news: Congress recently provided $4.5 billion to build a smarter electricity grid that can empower consumers with information about their electricity consumption. Studies have shown that having such consumer energy information in real-time can reduce energy use by 5 to 15 percent.

Edward Lu, Google's Program Manager for Advanced Projects and a former astronaut, testified today on this topic before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Ed stressed that energy information should be provided to consumers in as close to real time as practical. And that information should be provided using open, non-proprietary standards that drive innovation and competition, and that will guard against technology obsolescence as the smart grid evolves.

The smart grid is essentially a nascent energy Internet. Thanks to the open protocols and standards on which it was built, the Internet has grown into a thriving ecosystem, delivering innovative products and services to billions of users worldwide. Applying the same principles of openness to our nation's electric grid would create a smarter platform for products and services, helping consumers conserve energy and save money.

Check out Ed's full testimony and a video recording of the hearing. Also, check out Google PowerMeter to get a preview of the sorts of consumer applications that could be built around a smart grid.