Screen shot 2009-11-13 at 12.37.23 PMMicrosoft Hohm, the software giant’s new home energy management system, is now available for the 3.4 million households served by utility Xcel Energy. This is the second time the tool, which makes energy use and pricing data available via a web interface, has been tested with a mass audience. It went live with Seattle City Light last month.

Xcel provides power to a diverse geographic customer base — spanning Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin — and drawing power from coal, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and biomass sources. Maybe this is why it was selected as one of the first test markets for Hohm. Microsoft also names utilities like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and Puget Sound Energy as partners, but its unclear when they will receive access.

Hohm, still in beta form, is a free service that utility customers have to choose to sign up for. In addition to being able to view how much power they are using and how much it is costing, they will also receive personalized recommendations for how they can save more money off their electricity bills right on their internet browsers. This adds Xcel to the tide of utilities looking to add home energy management services to their portfolios of offerings.

Xcel has been interested in making these capabilities available to its customers for a while. It’s also running Boulder, Colo.’s SmartGridCity project — an initiative to tie together technologies and services from companies like Accenture, Current Group, GridPoint, OSIsoft, SmartSynch and Ventyx into a holistic Super Grid pilot.

Xcel plans to partner with GridPoint, a provider of Smart Grid software, to roll out its own home energy management dashboard in Boulder by the end of the year (even though its a direct competitor to Hohm).

Google Powermeter, another Hohm rival — perhaps the most important one — has also announced partnerships with nine utilities, as well as smart meter maker Itron and home management device makers The Energy Detective and AlertMe. It doesn’t appear to be threatened by Hohm so far, but if the latter picks up speed, it could turn into a race for utilities’ favor.

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