Nine more utilities, and three large energy vendors, announced support on Thursday for the Green Button project, which enables utility customers to download their energy consumption data with a click of a button and also use that data for energy-saving apps.
As expected, at an event at the White House on Monday, Obama administration officials unveiled a slew of programs and initiatives that will aim to help add information technology to the power grid to make the grid more efficient and more secure.
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.
Quiet smart grid player Digi International is already providing networking for some of the best-known names in the industry, and it’s aiming to move into the emerging world of cloud-based smart grid services and applications as well.
Deregulated energy markets, with companies competing with one another for customers, could be great places to test technologies and services to get customers engaged with their utilities. Whether that will lead to them saving energy at the same time is less clear, however.
I’m wrapping up my visit to Houston for the Texas Electricity Professionals Association‘s fall conference, and thought I’d share some more information on the state of electricity competition/deregulation. According to Taff Tschamler, executive director at utility consultancy KEMA, the take-up of competitive power offerings has been far greater in the commercial and industrial sectors, which has grown to about 50 percent this year from about 25 percent in 2003. That makes sense, since C&I customers have a lot more incentive to get intimately involved with their power supplies. But only about one-quarter of residential customers now buy power from competitive suppliers Tschamler said — up from about 10 percent in 2003, but still pretty low. Technology that helps homeowners view, price and manage their power consumption in a more real-time way could help open up that market. Texas, with its big push into residential smart metering and a Web portal to bring the data they collect to customers and power sellers alike, will be a good place to test the business propositions behind those home energy management offerings.
California’s grand experiment with power market deregulation ended with a bang in 2001, when Enron-engineered rolling blackouts. But in Texas, power market deregulation — or competition, as folks down here prefer to name it — is in full swing.
What’s going on in the world of competitive electricity markets? To find out, I’ve come to Houston, where the Texas Electricity Professionals Association is holding its fall conference. TEPA is a group of retail electricity providers and “ABCs” — aggregators, brokers and consultants — that serve the deregulated-slash-“competitive” Texas power market, the biggest in the United States. Still, it’s not the only one — Taff Tschamler, executive director of KEMA, told the audience that competitive U.S. markets make up about $45 billion, or 600 terawatt-hours of the country’s roughly 3,800 TWhs. That share should rise to about 700 TWhs by 2015, with New England and Mid-Atlantic states included, and Pennsylvania and Ohio moving to open up their power markets more completely. KEMA sees another 1,300 TWhs in the U.S. being “eligible” for a shift to competitive markets, Tschamler said. Of course, with the general public’s concept of power market deregulation mainly being the Enron/California fiasco in 2000 and 2001, deregulation advocates will need to take their message to regulators and customers, and show that deregulation works to lower prices and improve reliability.
The Lone Star State may lag behind California in its number of smart meters deployed, but it’s taken a lead in regulations and funding. And those are just a couple items in a long list of reasons why, despite one or two cost barriers, Texas may emerge as the leader in smart meter deployment.
When it comes to the future of smart meters, don’t look to California — set your eyes on Texas. The Lone Star State lags California in sheer numbers of meters deployed, but has taken a lead in supporting them with regulations and funding.