Today in Cleantech

It’s the big smart grid IPO of the year. Silver Spring Networks, the most successful smart meter-smart grid networking startup out there, has filed for an initial public offering to raise as much as $150 million on the New York Stock Exchange. We’ve been waiting for this one for a long time. SSN’s Internet protocol-based networking and 900-megahertz radios are inside about 8 million smart meters now deployed and a total of 17 million under contract, mostly in the United States, but also in Australia and potentially in Europe and South America as well. Unlike some of its fellow greentech IPO candidates in industry sectors such as biofuels and solar power, Silver Spring has revenues — $70.22 million in 2010 and $46.69 million so far this year, although it’s still not a profitable company. Then again, SSN works with slow-moving utilities as its clients, meaning it can take years for projects to move from initiation to revenue-generation. Indeed, beyond the potential good news this IPO represents to Silver Spring’s investors — including big shareholder Foundation Capital with 41.5 percent of shares, but also Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, W.R. Holdings, NCD Investors, Contra Costa Capital and JVB Properties — there’s the value in finally seeing a smart grid company take itself to the public markets. The smart grid sector’s exits have almost exclusively been via acquisitions. While some pretty big payouts have been happening there, a successful Silver Spring IPO could prove that startups in the sector can make it in the utility-driven smart grid world on their own.

California utilities lay out smart grid roadmaps

Last week saw California’s big three utilities release in-depth smart grid deployment roadmaps, giving smart grid companies about the closest thing to a detailed plan of attack that they could ask for.

Opportunities in California’s smart grid deployment plans

Last week, California’s big three utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — released in-depth smart grid deployment roadmaps that include about $5.6 billion in smart grid spending over the coming decade. For smart grid companies, it’s about the closest thing to a detailed plan of attack one could ask for. Of course, much of that money is tied up in ongoing smart meter deployments, and another huge chunk is for transmission and distribution grid projects with a limited range of potential competitors. Still, that leaves plenty of opportunities for nimble companies with key software, networking or hardware technologies to fill the gaps that remain. Here are some of them.

Today in Cleantech

California’s big utilities are getting more specific about their smart grid plans. Today is the deadline for Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to turn in documents describing just what they want to do on the smart grid front between now and 2020, complete with estimates of the 10-year capital investment plans and costs to be borne by their customers, as well as what they payback will be. PG&E filed its 280-page plan yesterday, and the plans are big — $800 million to $1.25 billion in capital investments and $500 million to $700 million in operating costs over the next 10 years. Of course, that’s meant to deliver $900 million to $2 billion in lower energy purchasing costs, avoided costs of not having to build new power plans, grid reliability improvements and the like. SDG&E’s plan, filed June 6 (PDF), sets a 2006-2020 smart grid cost of $3.6 billion, with a resulting benefit of  $3.8 to $7.1 billion, including a potential “societal and environmental” benefit of as much as $1.9 billion ascribed in part to the advanced grid systems that will let it incorporate the 33-percent intermittent, renewable energy generation that state mandates require it and other major state utilities to have in their power mix by 2020. No doubt the smart grid industry is looking carefully at these cutting-edge utilities to see how the new plans change the expected flow of investment to various technologies. Will smart meters see a diminished emphasis? Will distribution automation, renewable energy integration or energy storage see a big uptick in spending? I’ll be reading the full reports over the weekend to let you know what they say — stay tuned.

Today in Cleantech

Here’s a personnel change worth noting. Andy Tang, Pacific Gas & Electric’s smart grid chieftain who brought a high level of tech savvy to his utility job, has left PG&E to join building energy software startup Scientific Conservation. Tang will be “Executive Vice President, Strategy, Business Development & Utility Channel,” at the San Francisco-based startup, which sounds to me like SCI will be doing a lot more business with utilities like PG&E in the future. So far, SCI has concentrated on commercial buildings as customers for its “continuous commissioning” software, which plugs into existing building management systems to prevent them from losing efficiency over time. But along with its recent $19 million investment from General Electric and Triangle Peak Partners, SCI landed an undisclosed investment and open-ended partnership with Intel to apply its software to improving efficiency of everything from data centers to cubicle workstations — two areas where SCI’s data analysis chops could link up with Intel’s IT energy management smarts in interesting ways. Tang worked for Intel as its European WiMAX solutions head before moving to PG&E, by the way, giving him both background with Intel and (according to conversations I’ve had with him) a healthy skepticism of WiMAX’s chances of becoming a ubiquitous wireless technology for the smart grid.

Today in Cleantech

California’s new greenhouse gas reduction law is rolling toward implementation, and that means big emitters — like utility Pacific Gas & Electric — have to start planning for it. Earlier this week, PG&E picked Carlsbad., Calif.-based Enviance to help it meet its needs under California’s AB 32 Mandatory Reporting Regulation, meant to establish both reporting systems and technology platforms for big emitters to participate in carbon markets, cap-and-trade mechanisms and the like. There are a lot of carbon accounting startups out there — Hara just landed $25 million, and SAP and CA are among the big enterprise software vendors tackling the market. But most of them rely on data from other sources, and rarely go out to oil and gas wells, refineries, industrial boilers and other such real-world emitters to collect data. That’s what Enviance does — founded in 1999, it has a customer list that includes CH2MHill, Chevron, Georgia Power, Southern Co., AEP, DuPont and Valero. Most companies aren’t going to want to spend so much money on real-world sensors and data collection. But for those that do, getting this deep-dive view will be critical — and there’s little doubt their data will be making its way up the corporate chain of command, so to speak, to end up in disclosure statements with the SEC or voluntary carbon reporting groups like the Carbon Disclosure Project.

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.

California Lays Out Smart Meter Privacy Rules

California’s utility regulator has proposed rules on how home energy devices should protect smart meter data privacy — and whether the device is “locked” into one company’s platform or technology or not will be a big deal.

Today in Cleantech

California Gov. Jerry Brown made it official — the state’s biggest utilities are going to get a third of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable resources by 2020. Now all they have to do it get to their existing mandate of 20 percent by 2010. As of March, Pacific Gas & Electric had hit 17.7 percent and Southern California Edison had reached 19.4 percent in their clean energy portfolios, though both are projecting they’ll hit 20 percent by the end of the year. Huge projects by the likes of BrightSource Energy and First Solar are set to expand California’s share of solar power over the coming years, but utilities still have a long way to go to get there. Plus, the cost of building solar and wind farms, geothermal power plants and other far-off clean resources can be matched or exceeded by the cost of building new transmission lines to get the power to where it’s needed. Distributed green energy — rooftop solar panels, backyard wind farms, household batteries and other sources of power — could help reduce some of those transmission costs by putting green power close to where it’s consumed. But distributed resources are harder for utilities to manage and control, without smart grid technologies to link them up…

Opower Lands Utilities PG&E, BG&E

Can Opower fix utilities smart meter customer relation woes? The startup, which uses data about energy consumption to modify consumer behavior, has two new clients — Pacific Gas & Electric and Baltimore Gas & Electric — that have faced issues with smart meters and consumers.