When Microsoft, Google have bailed, can White House succeed?

Companies shuttering energy-monitoring services as Energy.Data.gov comes online

Microsoft is cancelling its home-energy monitoring service, Hohm, following Google’s announcement June 24 that it is shutting down its similar site, PowerMeter.

The move might be a sign that it’s not so easy being green after all, but the White House and other commercial operations haven’t abandoned the cause, recently launching websites and tools to monitor and conserve energy.

Microsoft and Google didn’t necessarily make it easy for consumers to use their services. The idea that was users would reduce their energy consumption by being more aware of how much they use — Google cited studies saying that such information led to energy-use reductions of 15 percent on average — but they required people to input their information manually into the sites.

Related coverage:

Should government be worried? Google drops e-health, energy services.

When the companies launched their services several years ago, energy use was a hot topic and the power industry was expecting more smart meters to be in placed by now, Ars Technica reports. The companies also had trouble lining up cooperation with the utilities that have customer data, Ars Technica reported.

As a result, not enough people used the services for Google and Microsoft to deem them viable, leading to their demise.

But people and organizations who still want to track, reduce or educate themselves about energy use aren’t being left out in the cold.

The White House on June 30 launched Energy.Data.gov, which provides detailed information on energy use, along with applications and tools for measuring energy use, and blogs and forums on the subject.

In a blog post, federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra said the site, a targeted spin-off of Data.gov, has 216 free datasets and tools collected from agencies to help people “better monitor, manage and save energy.”

More tools and datasets will be added during the year, Chopra said.

Launching the energy site runs counter to the administration’s new project to eliminate duplicative or trivial websites and put a hold on the development of new ones, InformationWeek points out. In addition to shutting down hundreds of websites, the administration said it was pulling plug on upgrades to Data.gov and some other of its flagship transparency sites, InformationWeek said.

The arrival of the energy site indicates that energy consumption is still high on the administration’s priority list, even if Microsoft and Google didn’t find much interest.

Microsoft and Google’s tools might have just been ahead of their time, coming along before smart meters and a smart electrical grid were evolved enough to make them practical.

But there are plenty of other commercially produced tools, many of them new, to help consumers measure and reduce their energy use. Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOm details 12 of them here.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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