Consumer thirst for home energy management services will not come right away from utilities rolling out smart grid programs or from long-awaited government incentives, but from huge service providers like cable and security companies. And it will start in 2011—possibly in a very big way.
Paul Dawes, co-CEO of iControl, which is providing the platforms for cable, telco, and security rollouts of “connectivity” solutions that include some basic home control, says energy management, including some form of energy monitoring, will be included in these systems in 2011. “We see the opportunity as literally being millions of home per year [receiving various iControl services],” he says.
iControl already provides the platform for ADT’s Pulse system, which has been rolled out nationally and can include remote management of security cameras, thermostats and some lights. ADT offers very basic “energy management” by enabling users to shut off lights and adjust thermostat settings.
iControl recently merged with rival uControl to provide a better platform for cable operators, who prefer the ZigBee wireless protocol that uControl offers. (iControl’s utilizes Z-Wave.) Dawes says a number of broadband service provider rollouts are set for the first two quarters of 2011. He would not confirm whether Xfinity, formerly Comcast, will be involved, though it is largely expected that it will. Comcast is an iControl investor. Comcast has been selling a security system in Houston, using systems from GE Security, an iControl partner. Other iControl investors include Cisco and Intel, both of whom have introduced home energy management systems.
See where this is going?
Dawes says iControl’s energy management solution will include a simple set of interfaces that allow homeowners to do things like shut off some lights or reset thermostats just by pressing a button—much as one would do with an “Away” button on a custom-installed home control system. The energy management features of these systems will certainly include more than what ADT is presently offering in its Pulse system, with some basic energy monitoring in some systems, depending on the service provider. But the energy management services from service providers using the iControl platforms likely won’t be nearly as sophisticated as what can be done by pairing energy monitoring and home control systems.
“There is a large appetite for consumers for energy management, but little amount of work that consumers are willing to do to get there,” says Dawes. “You have to make it easy.”
Dawes says iControl is also working with utilities that are conducting smart grid trials to test “more advanced uses of energy management.” Yet there is some doubt whether utilities will go beyond installing two-way smart meters and deal with in-home energy management systems.
Dawes says he expects to see far more energy management services from broadband and other large service providers than from utilities in the next 18 months to two years, and that smart grid energy management rollouts won’t gain momentum until 2012.
This is backed up by a Parks Associates forecast that says over 10 million U.S. households will have iREMs (independent/non-utility residential energy management networks) by 2015, while less than six million will have utility-based home area networks (HANs).