Real-time home energy management is one of the biggest potential benefits of a consumer-friendly smart grid. But the products and software required to achieve this goal have not caught on with utilities or consumers. energyNOW! spoke with CNET reporter Martin LaMonica to find out what has held home energy management back so far, and what the future may hold for this nascent industry.
Multiple companies have entered the home energy market with mixed results. Google and Microsoft recently cancelled their web-based energy management programs, primarily due to a lack of participants and difficulty synchronizing information with utilities. However, many other companies are forging ahead with new products, even though they are still "in pilot land," according to LaMonica, where companies are trying to figure out what works for consumers.
Companies are trying various approaches to the market primarily because consumer demand exists, says LaMonica. Right now, the market centers on so-called "gadget lovers" who want to try the latest and greatest technologies. These early adopters are helping companies refine their products and services, and their experiences and feedback will be key to widespread adoption.
Ultimately, reaching a mass market will depend on affordability and easy access, says LaMonica. Current home energy management products can cost several hundred dollars, a number many consumers may not be able to afford in a down economy. If companies can make their products easier to use through smartphone apps, web portals, or simpler monitoring devices, they may appeal to a wider range of consumers.
LaMonica thinks speculation about the future of the home energy management industry has been scaled back. While ideas and products initially flourished, driving optimism, progress has gone slower than expected. But with numerous companies attempting to find solutions, there are multiple options for utilities and consumers to pursue. "What form it takes is kind of still up in the air," says LaMonica.