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Smart-grid group gains Google

The tech giant joins industry group that promotes products for home energy-monitoring and making the power grid more efficient during peak times with software.

Google on Thursday joined a smart-grid trade association that promotes energy efficiency in the power grid and home-energy monitoring.

The group, called Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DRSG), includes companies that manufacture networked electricity meters and software for sharing information between consumers and utilities.

Google is increasingly active in the energy business. Through its Google.org philanthropy, it has invested in a few clean-energy ventures.

In September, it announced a partnership with General Electric to lobby for clean-energy policies and to develop smart-grid software.

GE makes smart-grid hardware and software, products that let consumers participate in utility-sponsored energy-efficiency programs. A homeowner could, for example, schedule the dishwasher to run at off-peak times or have the thermostat adjusted.

There are a number of companies that makes software and gadgets for viewing home energy use, a product area where Google has yet to launch a product.

The other technology that the DRSG focuses on is demand response. Demand-response companies create software to dial down energy use at homes or businesses during peak times.

By lowering the lights at a supermarket during the day, for example, utilities can avoid having to turn on expensive and dirty "peaker" power plants. Businesses are paid for participating in these programs.

Demand response is another area that outsiders have speculated that Google could enter.

Other companies to join the DRSG on Thursday include demand-response company CPower (formerly called ConsumerPowerline), energy services firm Conservation Services Group, and smart -meter provider Corporate Systems Engineering.