Today in Cleantech

Siemens is sitting on a huge pile of cash — what’s it going to spend it on? According to a Bloomberg article that ran over the weekend, the German engineering and power giant’s acquisition targets could include big U.S. smart meter maker Itron, among other potential smart grid buys. According to Bloomberg’s calculations, Siemens has the second-biggest cash reserves of any major corporation, with  18.5 billion euros ($27 billion), double its stash from three years ago. Siemens has made some smaller acquisitions, such as air conditioning automation company Site Controls. But it hasn’t participated yet in some of the billion-dollar acquisitions coming from its competitors in the smart grid space. France’s Schneider Electric has been buying tons of smart grid companies, most recently pledging to spend $2 billion to pick up smart grid software player Telvent — a move that tracks fellow grid giant ABB’s $1 billion pickup of grid software vendor Ventyx last year. General Electric has agreed to spend $3.2 billion to buy power conversion and automation company Converteam, and has been strategically investing in data center management and building automation companies. As for smart meters, Toshiba’s $2.3 billion purchase of Swiss metering giant Landis+Gyr has given the staid world of meter-making a new boost. Itron is publicly traded, so a move to buy Itron would be much more public than the behind-the-scenes bidding for the privately-held L+G. I’m curious to see what develops.

Today in Cleantech

What’s a Japanese nuclear power plant giant to do, post-Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster? Go green, of course. Toshiba announced a major shift away from its plans to generate 1 trillion yen ($12.2 billion) on nuclear power plant projects by 2016, pushing that revenue figure out at least two to three years as nations around the globe shelve or postpone new nuclear projects. Instead, according to company president Norio Sasaki, Toshiba plans over the next four years to increase sales of renewable energy technology to 350 billion yen ($4.3 billion), motors, inverters and battery sales to 800 billion yen ($9.8 billion) and smart grid sales to 900 billion yen ($11 billion). That latter category will be helped along by Toshiba’s $2.3 billion purchase of Swiss smart metering giant Landis+Gyr, no doubt. This big green push puts Toshiba firmly in the ranks of fellow Asian conglomerates such as Sharp, Panasonic, Hitachi, Samsung and LG in green power, energy storage and smart grid ambitions.

Today in Cleantech

Looks like the bidding war for smart meter giant Landis+Gyr is over — and Toshiba is the announced winner. The Japanese conglomerate has agreed to buy the Swiss-based smart grid firm for $2.3 billion, Reuters reported this morning. That’s a little less than the $2.48 billion offer anonymous sources reported Toshiba had bid for the company earlier this month, but more than the reported $2 billion bid from General Electric in late April — again, reported via anonymous sources. Other sources named Honeywell and ABB as potential bidders as well, but this morning’s announcement would appear to make Toshiba the official winner. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2011, subject to regulatory approval. What does Toshiba get with the purchase? Well, Landis+Gyr is one of the Big Five smart meter companies in the world (the others are GE, Itron, Sensus and Elster), and has a huge list of projects and customers that Toshiba — itself a major player in nuclear power and grid systems — might want for itself. Adding L+G’s deep smart metering expertise — as well as its grid communications and controls systems — to Toshiba’s portfolio could yield the kind of grid-spanning technology to allow it to compete against the likes of GE and Siemens, or perhaps on its home turf against the partnership between Hitachi and Panasonic to build smart grid systems that link power generation and end users in a complete network.

Landis+Gyr — Anatomy of a Smart Meter Company for Sale

Landis+Gyr is on the auction block, and General Electric, Toshiba, Honeywell and ABB are rumored to be in the bidding. Why the interest? Whoever buys Landis+Gyr will be getting the company’s extensive smart metering and distribution grid management technology to work with, and its extensive roster of moneymaking projects.

Today in Cleantech

From IDC Energy Insights comes today’s snapshot of the smart meter market, with the big top-line figure — half of North America’s electrical meters, or some 88 million, will be smart by 2015. That’s a lot of new meters, though to be honest, a bit of a slackening of the pace of growth we’ve seen over the past year or so. In October, eMeter’s Chris King  said 16 million smart meters were installed in the U.S., and in November, Pike Research counted 57.9 million installed or under contract. Add in Canada, which is adding several million smart meters mainly in Ontario province, and that means about 30 million more smart meters to come in the next four years. Most of that is locked up in contracts, of course, and Swiss-based Landis+Gyr leads the pack in total smart meter deployments, though just by a hair. L+G was also the only company IDC picked for its “leaders” category. Itron, Sensus, Elster, General Electric and Echelon were all listed as  “major players,” while Aclara was relegated to the “contenders” category.

Today in Cleantech

2010 greentech investment numbers are out, and it was a good year — compared to 2009’s disappointing one. Global venture investment into green technologies stood at $7.77 billion last year,up 28 percent from 2009’s $6.1 billion, according to figures from the Cleantech Group this morning. North America led the world with $5.28 billion raised — more than 2009’s $3.65 billion, though less than the $6.25 billion raised in the go-go year of 2008. European green VC kept sliding, however, with only $1.62 billion raised in 2010, down from $1.75 billion in 2009 and $1.84 billion in 2008. Asia’s VC investment grew to $771 million last year, up from $655 million in 2009 and $620 million in 2008 — not impressive in its own right. But in terms of green IPOs, it was China that dominated in 2010, with eight of the 10 biggest public offerings for the year garnering $9.79 billion, or two-thirds of global capital raised. Most of those companies weren’t venture-backed firms, as compared to many U.S. greentech IPOs of the year, which drew a combined $4.06 billion. I’ll have more details from this and other 2010 greentech reports for you in next week’s weekly update — stay tuned.

Today in Cleantech

Will Brazil be the next big market for smart meters? The world’s big smart meter makers seem to think so. Silver Spring Networks announced Wednesday that it would work with Swiss metering giant Landis+Gyr on a Brazilian smart grid solution — and L+G is already testing its smart meters with Brazilian regulators. While those two work on a wireless smart meter solution, powerline carrier systems are also trying the market — Echelon has a deal to supply its technology to Brazilian smart meter maker ELO Systemas Electronicos, and Esco Technologies subsidiary Aclara is targeting Brazil as well as South American countries like Colombia. Stopping power theft and fixing too-frequent power outages are the key concerns for Latin American utilities, which could open the market to system-on-a-chip makers as well.

Today in Cleantech

Utilities need help putting their smart grid plans together, and IBM is ready to help out — with its list of preferred partners. Big Blue has announced a new smart grid communications service for utilities, offering to hand-hold them through the process, from design to implementation and managing ongoing operations. IBM’s partners include Cisco, Itron, Juniper Networks, Landis+Gyr, Motorola, RuggedCom, Sensus and Trilliant. At the same time, Cisco — part of IBM’s partner list — says it wants to organize large sections of the smart grid under its own networking and management umbrella, and potential competitors like Siemens and General Electric could be angling for similar “master control” roles. It’s all part of a growing smart grid services market that Pike Research predicts will zoom from $470 million this year to $4.3 billion by 2015.

Why Cisco Could Reach an End-to-End IP Smart Grid Network First

Last week, Cisco bought startup Arch Rock, who promises an IP-compliant set of mesh networking technologies Cisco plans to bring to market with smart meter giant Itron. It’s a move that places the three companies squarely in competition with, well, just about everybody else in the space, but what does this new combination really offer the industry?