There’s been lots of news on the smart grid front in the last week or two. The announcements included the following:
• According to Bloomberg, Japan plans to spend 100 Billion Yen ($1.1bn) on smart grid trials over five years in four Japanese urban areas. Toyota, Toshiba and Panasonic are among companies participating in the trials.
The government wants Japan to get 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, which will require a national grid upgrade costing an estimated 6.7 trillion yen by 2030.
• The US Department of Energy has announced the award of $100m for 54 smart grid workforce training programs with community colleges, universities, utilities and manufacturers. It is expected that around 30,000 people will be trained on the transmission and distribution systems as well as new intelligent grid systems, such as smart meters, phasor measurement sensors and advanced communication networks.
• The Climate Group, Google and 45 green groups, technology companies, investors and retailers have sent a letter to President Obama, asking for his Administration to “adopt the goal of giving every household and business access to timely, useful and actionable information on their energy use”. Among the signatories were AT&T, Best Buy, Dow, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson Controls, Inc, the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change and Whirlpool.
The letter builds on recommendations in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan, which included the goal that ‘every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption’ (based on the findings of The Climate Group’s SMART 2020 Report).
• British Gas (BG), the UK’s largest energy supplier, has announced plans to accelerate the roll-out of its smart meter programme and install two million smart meters in customers' homes by 2012. BG also revealed the companies it will be working with - mobile phone company Vodafone; wireless network supplier Zigbee; SAP for the billing software; smart meter software and communications firms OSIsoft and Trilliant; and smart meter manufacturer Landis+Gyr. (It may not be a complete coincidence that a few days later Landis+Gyr announced that it had reached an agreement to raise $165m to fund growth and support smart metering roll-outs worldwide).
With the huge opportunities emerging around smart grids there’s going to be a feeding frenzy among IT suppliers. Whilst it’s a competitive market, it’s also an opportunity on such a scale that some of the more specialist companies may have to be careful not to overstretch themselves (hence Landis+Gyr’s timely financing). Even the largest suppliers are weighing up opportunities carefully so as to match opportunities with resources. It’s a market where I would expect to see some significant acquisitions in the coming years.