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Bill Melendez

Is HAN standards being developed and proposed too

As a HAN developer and manufacturer, we are constantly evaluation standards (OpenAMI, OpenDR, OpenHAN, utilityXML, etc.) and our overall impression is that the trends towards standards are geared and designed to meet utility needs verses customer needs. Maybe it is just our perception. While developers such as us like to think we are current in all our product offering, trying to pin down a set industry standard is as elusive as a moving target. This brings up the issue as to HAN development and implementation — do we follow a utility view or a mass market consumer view? Are standards being proposed too geared towards solving utility needs while diminishing consumer needs? Or are the two compatible? As you might have guess by now, we do tend to follow the revenue creation approach that basically states that what the customer wants — they get, as long as they are paying for it. Our research via contacts within the energy markets, particularly energy conservation service companies, shows a disinterest in the business models and approach many of the standards organizations are proposing — partly because proposed standards are so new (lacking in a business model), partly because revenue is being created profitably with current business models and approach, and partly because of the concern energy providers have of being perceived too much like big brother by energy users/consumers. If this is the case, and I hear a lot of this echoed by our contacts, it stands to reason that HAN standards should be more in tuned to the market and less in tuned to perceptions and mindsets of industry biased experts. What do you think?

Google and Silver Springs Networks

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.