With the increasing success of renewable energy - 24 states have renewable portfolio standards - there is a growing understanding that meeting the goals set out in those standards will require greater sophistication in our electrical grid and better management of existing demand - energy efficiency - needs still greater attention.
And out of that interest the vendors see opportunity. Cisco's new product and initiatives by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network look to help advance the space.
Cisco Systems aims to be a player, most recently launching a "Home Energy Controller"
This entry now competes with Google's SmartMeter and Microsoft's Hohm and others.
Cisco’s home energy product enters a market with a whole lotta players. Silver Spring Networks has its own home energy management software it acquired when it bought Greenbox, GridPoint has its own home energy software, which it grabbed though an acquisition of Lixar SRS, meter management company eMeter launched its own energy software service, and startups like Tendril have been building businesses around this market. And those are just some of the utility-focused plays — there’s many startups (like EnergyHub and People Power) that have launched consumer-focused energy devices.
Despite the wealth of players, the home energy management market is actually quite small right now, if not non existent. Consumers aren’t directly buying these products yet, and only a handful of utilities are trialling these devices in the pilot stage. But a variety of industries, from telcos and cable operators, to utilities to startups — and now Cisco — are trying to get into the market early.
This is all early positioning, currently a novelty item. But it is reasonable to expect that eventually all homes will have these tools.
Parallel to these products are broader initiatives to advance broad based smart grid efforts. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group has launched with PG&E and the City of San Jose the "Smart Grid Taskforce"
The group, which will focus specifically on California, will start out by creating a research report around the economic impacts of the smart grid and members of the force include Oracle, Cisco, Nanosolar, Control4, Coulomb Technologies, Silver Spring Networks and OPower. The task force isn’t the first group like this, and earlier this year 10 companies including IBM, Control4, the Gridwise Alliance, and General Electric, launched the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), which focuses on consumer education across the U.S.
The group will also look to ramp-up public education on the benefits of smart grid and advance legislative initiatives to support smart grid. This is in part an effort to restore public confidence following the challenges with the PG&E Smart Meter program which has significantly weakened support for this important solution.
Another initiative is that of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network's Climate Prosperity program is looking to create a smart grid demonstration project in the Mountain View's Moffett Field where multiple big development plans are in the works such as the new research and education center with NASA and local universities. This presents a a special opportunity due to the confluence of needs including desire to improve energy supply dependability and quality, energy cost reduction by major consumers, increase in renewables, best practices development, new product opportunities and more. The context of developing a region currently with no legacy infrastructure with numerous high volume users such as NASA, NetApp, Juniper Networks, Lockheed and others makes the opportunity compelling. Storage, "virtual" on-demand power, source switching, pooled sourcing, transmission level pricing, all are part of the discussion.