The recent headline in various newsletters has one wondering about Google and its thrust into the Smart Grid: Google Ventures Invests in Silver Spring’s Smart Grid Technology…. Top that with the recent announcement of GE and Silver Spring Networks Chosen For Smart Meter Deal (GE, EXC) and one can only surmise that Google indeed is moving BIG into the home energy conservation and demand response via these initiatives.
Mixing Google with Silver Springs and GE sounds more like a headache waiting for an aspirin solution. Silver Springs’ focus on smart grid really doesn’t extend into the HAN side. They do have a meter to HAN software solution and can move into HAN markets since they are IP based. Google on the other hand is more focused on providing information from second source — namely the utilities. That hasn’t been figured out yet as to business model — who pays who what. GE is really futuristic with their smart appliance approach. When considering that a large appliance has a life cycle of over ten years before it is replaced, it becomes difficult finding incentive to buy smart appliances at a higher cost. You probably are thinking by now: GE has the money! You are right; GE does have tons of money and could possibly pull it off (if they can also convince the government to provide cash incentives to consumers for upgrading on their energy star appliance).
I also believe Silver Springs is on the right track as to IP based systems but spread kind of thin as to partnerships and business model (just count the partnerships!). No one really knows how the smart grid will pan out. The key movers, the utilities, are just not walking the talk when it comes to implementation of technology. Take the smart meter — there are so many variations of “smart” meters and some are really dumb when one argues what “smart” is. Take the utilities’ deployment of smart meters. Right now they are deploying as a means of reducing overhead costs and not so the grid can be smarter, consumers can be more educated, or consumption better managed.
If we honestly evaluate all the partnerships being developed, most are centered either on developing credibility (credentializing) or positioning for “potential” markets. A prime example is the meter manufacturers. They have every possible AMI/AMR developer as partners even though these AMI/AMR partners are deploying different RF protocols or technologies. I guess they want to cover all their bases.
It is easy to forget the bottom line while jockeying for smart grid alliances. And while having partnership logos looks good on the web site and in press releases, only the balance sheet counts.