Silver Spring Networks, increasingly the provider of IP-based smart metering systems to watch, has gotten another big break, expanding its partnership with both Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) and General Electric Energy to help deploy the utility’s ambitious Positive Energy Smart Grid Program, one of the first of its kind in the region.
OG&E, which plans to roll out the technology to 42,000 homes and businesses in Norman, Okla., says its program will improve the reliability of its electricity delivery, and also help customers lower their electricity bills while maintaining their current standards of living. Silver Spring’s Smart Energy Network will provide the core functionality here, transmitting energy consumption data collected by smart meters to OG&E for real-time monitoring, billing, and blackout prevention.
The news is significant because it demonstrates how the Smart Grid imperative is penetrating the heartland. Paired with the recent handout of $3.4 billion in federal grants to utilities taking up these initiatives, it is clear that the Smart Grid will be a dominant force in the cleantech sector in the next several years.
One of the advantages of Silver Spring’s offering is that it helps utilities detect any sort of service disruption — whether it be a felled tree taking down power lines or overloaded peak demand — and allows them to reroute or rebalance power loads remotely to protect or reestablish service almost immediately. This saves literally millions of dollars a year in emergency maintenance costs, and keeps customers happy.
This isn’t the first time the wireless network provider has worked with OG&E and GE — the three parties collaborated in a 6,600-customer pilot study of the technology in the summer of 2008. But this new expansion in Norman will remain somewhat of a laboratory for the companies. Between 2,000 and 3,000 energy consumers there will be selected to receive real-time energy consumption and pricing information via a dashboard as party of study determining whether simply viewing this data encourages changes in energy use behavior.
Still, the entire project is contingent on the deployment of smart meters in Norman and surrounding areas. OG&E has yet to announce which company or companies will be providing, installing and maintaining this equipment. All of these efforts have of course been buoyed by the $130 million in stimulus grants the utility just received from the U.S. Department of Energy. It still needs to negotiate with the department about exactly how this money will be used, but it hopes to apply it toward a $300 million roll out of Smart Grid capabilities across its entire service area (30,000 square miles in Oklahoma and Arkansas and 775,000 customers) in the next three to five years.
Silver Spring, pegged by many analysts, to be the first Smart Grid startup to go public in the next year, has released a run of good news in the last two months. It recently diversified its business with the acquisition of Greenbox, maker of user-friendly home energy management displays, allowing regular consumers to view energy use and pricing information in real time. And the next day, it announced a partnership with Siemens to make the two companies’ complementary technologies interoperable.
VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your discounted early-bird tickets before Oct. 31 at GreenBeat2009.com.