Power Politics

Belatedly, U.S. Mandates Energy Savings as Germany Balks

energy 3 solar dpa
Germany is doing little to encourage energy savings, critics say.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    European companies aren’t the only ones getting into the energy conservation business. Some innovative products are starting to come from the United States.

  • Facts


    • Half of U.S. states require energy suppliers to achieve savings on a regular basis.
    • U.S. companies are beginning to develop technology to manage energy costs.
    • Nest, owned by Google, sells thermostats that can be operated with a smartphone.
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When lawmakers make energy conservation mandatory, new business models develop. This is becoming especially apparent in the United States at the moment. About half of the states have installed systems that require energy suppliers to achieve savings on a regular basis. These measures affect about two-thirds of the U.S. population.

Resourceful companies like Nest, which makes a digital, interactive thermostat for homes and businesses, are helping energy suppliers reach their conservation goals. The Silicon Valley-based company first attracted attention in Europe when Google invested in Nest in 2011. In January 2014, the search engine giant acquired Nest for €3.2 billion.

Nest helps its customers save energy. The company develops learning thermostats, which adjust room temperature to the outside temperature and the habits of residents. The thermostats can be controlled via smartphone and they also monitor consumption.

Many Americans, completely inexperienced with saving electricity, oil and natural gas, are using the new opportunities to directly control how much energy they use to heat their homes.

Another provider influences consumption behavior in a different way. According to the U.S. company Opower, it now provides 32 million households and businesses in nine countries with energy-use data that goes well beyond the information normally provided on utility bills.

The company juggles large amounts of data and, for example, gives consumers information on how much energy they use in comparison with other customers with similar user profiles. Each individual customer can draw their own conclusions from this information. The company, which has been particularly successful in the United States, already has five million European households as customers.

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