Utility-Based Green Tech PR: Right Idea, Wrong Audience?


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At the tail end of last week, Google officially pulled the plug on PowerMeter, the web energy management tool that had been limping along since 2009. The problems? Lack of consumer interest and a dearth of utility partners. The latter makes complete sense when you consider profit motives; the former, though, indicates something more interesting: perhaps an industry being pitched to the wrong crowd.

Like smart grid, Google’s PowerMeter required utility company buy-in — or, in other words, an energy management tool aimed at reducing usage required the partnership of the folks selling the power in the first place. Spokesmen may argue otherwise, but the perversity of expecting power companies to help customers pay them less seems pretty obvious, and shifts the slow “progress” of smart grid and the failure of PowerMeter from “surprising” to “completely predictable.”

The mystery isn’t why utility-backed energy efficiency tech hasn’t budged much — it’s why some green tech folks have chosen utility-backed models at all. Who benefits from lower bills? From seeing the power spike when the fridge cycles on? Or drop when an old appliance is replaced with a new one? It ain’t the power co — it’s the end user. Shouldn’t he be green tech’s customer, too?

I’ve read a number of articles lately discussing supposedly paradoxical facts on the green economy: It’s a huge engine of job growth. It’s a risky investment. It’s the wave of the future. And consumers couldn’t care less. Frankly, in a dicey economy, with volatile, war-influenced fossil fuel prices, and an explosion of power-hungry devices and infrastructure supporting what we all hope will be tomorrow’s prosperity, I can’t fathom how individuals could accurately be characterized as laughing off the amount due on their electric bills. I know I don’t.

But if the kind of data I want is dependent on my power company smartening up, damned right I’m going to regard the march of “progress” with a skeptical eye — still focused on my monthly invoice. Point being: apathy about utility infrastructure and apathy about energy conservation do not necessarily equate.

What consumers might get excited about — and what more outlets might take seriously — is a spike in real consumer-facing energy management tools that don’t rely on the enemy for supplies. A few companies are out there, but they’ve been awfully quiet. My guess is that the market will be unnecessarily stunted until they speak up.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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