Microsoft Hohm: First Seattle City Light, Now Xcel Energy

 |  Includes: MSFT, XEL
by: Greentech Media

By Jeff St. John

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Hohm home energy platform will soon be able to deliver monthly energy use data for all of Xcel Energy's (NYSE:XEL) 3.4 million customers across eight states, all without smart meters. The two companies plan to announce the news on Friday at an event at Microsoft's campus in Fargo, N.D., a Microsoft spokesperson said Thursday.

Xcel is the second utility to link customer data to Hohm. Last month, Seattle City Light started offering its roughly 1 million customers a data feed of their utility bill information via the Web platform.

That monthly billing data can be merged with information customers can input themselves about their household energy use to help better pinpoint ways to save energy (see Microsoft Launches Home Energy Site, Sees Devices, Demand Response in Future).

Xcel and Seattle City Light were two of four named utility partners for Hohm back when Microsoft launched it in June. The others were Puget Sound Energy and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, though they haven't yet said they're making billing data available through the home. Microsoft has said it is in discussions with more utilities.

Monthly billing data can be delivered to customers without smart meters, which may give Hohm a larger audience at this stage. Home energy management startups such as Tendril, Control4, AlertMe, OpenPeak EnergyHub and many others may have to wait several years for utilities to start linking smart meters to home energy management systems at a scale beyond pilot projects, industry observers say.

As for how Hohm differs from the many Web sites that allow homeowners to input information about their homes and get back tips for energy saving, Microsoft points to the advanced algorithms it uses, which were developed by the Department of Energy and its Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Microsoft also has said Hohm eventually will be supported by real-time data from smart thermostats and smart plugs it expects to see rolled out by various hardware partners in the coming year.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which launched its PowerMeter home energy interface effort in February, has shied away from asking homeowners to input their own information.

Rather, it has signed partnerships with a number of utilities, as well as smart meter maker Itron (NASDAQ:ITRI), to find ways to bring data from smart meters to customers. At the same time, it has announced partnerships with in-home energy monitoring equipment startups AlertMe and The Energy Detective, and has said it is seeking more such partners.