Boy, oh boy do I wish I were in San Diego this week, not just because I am totally sick of shoveling snow and ice, but because there was flurry of news at the Distributech conference. Press releases and proclamations have been hitting my inbox at blizzard rate, and when I took time to sort through them yesterday, there was a clear theme: many, many players are upping their efforts when it comes to home energy management technology and services.
The week started with a relationship I already wrote about separately, a team-up between Cisco and ECOtality that is intended to help marry the management system for the latter's electric vehicle chargers with the Cisco home energy controller product. Here are some other high-profile announcements that we will all want to watch unfold:
- Capgemini has just introduced a new smart energy service for utility companies that are trying to extend energy management capabilities to their customers. The offering is based on the Intel Home Energy Dashboard, which includes an in-home display. Among other things, Capgemini says the service will support demand response programs as well as initiatives that offer home owners preferential pricing for shifting energy consumption habits. The service is also intended to help support electric vehicle battery management, which is another common theme coming out of Distributech. Says Perry Stoneman, global leader for Capgemini's Smart Energy Services: "Home energy management is expected to grow rapidly with ON World predicting global revenues for HEM equipment and services will reach $3.3 billion by 2014. Utilities are acutely aware of this, and are seeking to bolster their offerings accordingly."
- Tendril also made a couple of strategic announcements, including the introduction of Tendril Energize, which is billed as an application suite for consumer engagement, and is being tested out by the Cape Light Compact. The company also is engaged in a major rollout of smart grid-enable appliances in conjunction with Whirlpool. The latter in particular is really interesting to me, because it could (in theory) let your appliances automate when they operate. Your dishwasher, for example, could run in the middle of the night when it costs the least. Ditto your washer and dryer (provided you can sleep through the noise.) The rationale from Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck is as follows: "This will forever change how consumers interact with their appliances and how they conserve energy in their homes. We believe this will help consumers become increasingly energy-wise, and in the process, help utilities effectively managed peak loads on the grid."
- Schneider Electric's play in this segment will be the Wiser Energy Management System, which is being billed as a consumer demand response application. The solution includes programmable thermostats that support ZigBee Smart Energy technology, a data dashboard, and a load controller for monitoring and managing the home's main systems (such as HVAC, water heaters and other power circuits).
- Intelligent energy services company Comverge also got into the act. The company is teaming up with OnStar to integrate its electric vehicle management platform with the Comverge IntelliSource application. Comverge also signed a deal with PPL Electric Utilities in Pennsylvania that will cover the installation and management of 50,000 home energy management devices. When I spoke with Comverge CEO Blake Young earlier today, he said that the biggest challenge utilities face when it comes to the smart grid and home energy management is information overload. "You can't do this without an enterprise-class software infrastructure in place," he says. "You need enterprise software that integrates and consolidates two-way communications. That is the only way that the consumer will be empowered." So to speak.
Just how big is the home energy management space? GTM Research just released a report focused on home communications technologies that will be associated with the smart grid. It predicts that this will become a $750 million market by 2015.
I still have my doubts as to how involved consumers will get when it comes to their energy bills, alone the payment I just made for January has me wondering personally how I can take action. In my mind, the trick will be integration of everything into one place, automating as much as possible (ala smart appliances) and links over to mobile devices that make it as easy to understand as possible. But after all the smart meter backlash of the last year, the vendors in this space are definitely trying to get more engaged with consumers and homeowners.