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Nest is pushing further into the energy business with SolarCity partnership

Will saving dollars on utility bills save the company?

Google To Buy Smart Thermostat Maker Nest For 3.2 Billion Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you live in California, your energy bill may look different soon. Starting in 2019, the state utility will demand that energy companies offer rates based on time of use — electricity prices that rise and fall with electricity usage.

Nest, the smart-device unit under Google’s Alphabet that recently shuffled its executives, is trying to capitalize on that.

The company is rolling out a new service, called Time of Savings, that lets its connected thermostat automatically adjust to match fluctuations in utility prices for customers on those plans (or soon to be). So if it’s a scorcher, and everyone cranks the AC, sending rates up, the Nest thermostat will turn itself up a smidgen to save costs.

The rating structure is a smart policy decision, and other states may follow. Because it’s a policy decision, however, it will probably be messy — electricity providers can provide time-of-use rates, but they don’t have to.

“How consumers manage their energy in their homes is going to get more challenging,” said Praveen Subramani, Nest’s head of energy products. “Instead of having to worry about when energy is going up or down, the thermostat can do it all in the background.”

The move is, in part, a marketing play. Nest is introducing the feature with SolarCity, the solar panel installer, with a promotional kick: SolarCity customers can get a free Nest thermostat.

For Nest, the service also signals its attempt to break further from its primary (arguably struggling) category — smart-home devices — into the business of utilities and energy services.

Nest customers who sign up for the service will hand over their electricity rate information to Nest, giving the company access to that data for the first time.

Cutting deals with the utility industry has been a part of Nest’s strategy since its acquisition by Google, although it has been overshadowed by the inordinate drama at Nest. Nest’s new CEO, Marwan Fawaz, hasn’t said anything publicly about his plans since taking over earlier this month.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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