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Bill Melendez

Trends in Consumer Electricity Use: Will the smart meter migrate into homes and building EMS as a subpart?

Next year will be a critical year for metering companies as the trends show a progressive split between the utilities and the energy consumer in home energy management systems (EMS). While the utilities are content to use communicable thermostats as a “control” mechanism in demand response programs, the world of energy management and home automation is shifting towards the telecoms, cable, SaaS companies, and appliance manufacturers. Add to the mix Google’s and Microsoft’s web based “free” solutions and the dynamics of energy management quickly change.

Google makes no bones about their thrust into the home energy markets. Their primary goal is to interface with “whole house” energy management products that accentuate their market focus. Microsoft also has a similar approach that basically places the utilities and therefore the smart metering companies as possible secondary goals for consumer to electricity management interfacing. Companies that meter the “whole house” will have an advantage of a larger customer base when coupled with the Google or Microsoft SaaS platforms. Will the meter move inside the home? If we follow the trends, I would say yes — but not any time soon. Once the infrastructure and experience dealing with consumer EMS is established, it would be a matter of time before legislation would follow “practice” in the market. Companies like Google open the Pandora’s Box of possibilities never imagined before in AMI/HAN/EMS options. The concept of “whole house” metering can easily change to “in-home” monitoring with products such as T.E.D. and others.

The trends show four distinct approach to home EMS/HAN with one being utility driven, the second being telecom/cable driven, smart appliance manufacturer driven, and the fourth being pushed by web portal type companies (Google, Microsoft, etc.). The opportunities for AMI/HAN are enormous and will result in many new startups and M&A activity before the dust settles in this market. Meter companies may soon find themselves competing with telecoms, cable, and the likes of Google/Microsoft as they “enable” less expensive options (smart appliances and smart AC sockets) for metering commercial and residential buildings. The key is building integration. As technologies expand the role and education of consumers and smart home solutions become economical to deploy, more consumer driven products will proliferate the EMS/HAN landscape. Utilities and meter companies will need long range vision to anticipate the paradigm shifts in consumer preferences and the impact technologies, climate change perspectives, increasing energy demand and the political environment have on their business. Many meter manufacturers are doing just that by including AMI/HAN representation within their companies. With the move toward consumerism in EMS/HAN, both utilities and meter companies need to ensure their role is not diminished within this market.

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