Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Companies have new focus on managing consumers’ electricity usage

Today there are 1.9 million homes with energy management networks. We are entering a period of pervasive growth. … We estimate there will be 16.2 million by 2015.

Parks Associates hosted the Smart Energy Summit in Austin last week. It focused on ways to find customers for such services. The three-day affair showed enthusiasm is high among corporations and entrepreneurs, who sense an emerging market. Parks Associates' Director of Research, Bill Ablondi said there were about 75 companies in the market last year, but now there are as many as 250, including such big names as GE, Intel, Verizon and AT&T.

Consumers, however, remain largely in the dark about the possibilities. Smart grid technologies promise to provide big gains in efficiency for electricity generators, transmitters and consumers. That means cost savings, less pollution and fewer power plants.

Integrating information technology into the electric power grid should also make it far easier to connect renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

The technologies should also make it possible to manage a fleet of electric cars so that they can be fueled without putting crushing demands on the system and double as available storage devices for power when parked.

But with electricity prices flat or falling (they were down 11.5 percent last year in Dallas), consumers are not motivated to jump in.

Oncor and other Texas electricity transmission companies have installed more than 3 million smart meters across the state under a mandate from the state government. The meters are providing an ocean of data to the utilities about electricity consumption, but consumers have seen little advantage.

Reliant and TXU Energy can also use the smart meter data to send e-mail alerts to consumers when their electricity usage starts to balloon, along with recommendations on ways to conserve.

A thermostat equipped with wireless radio communications, however, can be configured remotely. TXU Energy offers thermostats that can be programmed from a smart phone.

Parks Associates said energy management systems independent of smart meters would outsell the utility plans for several more years. He estimated that wireless thermostats would grow into a $1.1 billion market by 2015, and that remote-control lighting systems would equal that market.

Speaker after speaker at the conference said the key to this market, however, is raising consumer awareness of the cost savings such systems can bring — without sacrificing comfort or demanding a lot of skill.

To view the full Dallas Morning News Article, click here.

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