Networking giant Cisco announced this week it is pulling back on its energy management platform, joining Google and Microsoft, which recently spiked their PowerMeter and Hohm energy management software.
This will no doubt have some sounding the death knell for the home energy management market.
Not so quick, says Will West, CEO of control system manufacturer Control4, which has a branding agreement with Cisco for its home automation and energy management products. The home side of energy management just hasn’t grown as rapidly as many thought it would, he maintains.
West says his own company’s partnership with Cisco is getting progressively stronger, and that Control4 is starting to rollout home automation and energy management systems in planned smart communities such as Songdo, South Korea.
In Songdo, Control4 is deploying its home control hardware and software and a variation of its My Energy app, says West. The company plans to deploy its EMS 100 energy management system in international communities as well.
Cisco also has a partnership with Schneider Electric for energy management deployments on the commercial side, though Schneider also offers a Wiser Energy Management System and has produced home-based electric vehicle (EV) chargers.
A Gigantic Market
West says the home energy management market still has enormous potential. “I think a lot of people thought the home side would take off more quickly because of the smart meter deployments. And without [intelligent networking systems] in the home you end up with a rate increase just so the utility can read your meter remotely,” he says. “It’s got to happen. The market is there, and it’s gigantic.
“Part of equation that gets left out is we’re dealing with utilities,” which are notoriously conservative and slow. Many utilities are still running pilot and trial programs to determine their smart grid rollout strategies.
To quote CNET’s Martin LaMonica, the problem with home energy management via the smart grid, is that we’re still largely in “pilot land.”
But is the Smart Grid Needed?
Must we wait for uber-Slowsky utilities to rollout smart grid programs? Sure, delaying a cycle on your clothes or dishwasher to a cheaper time-of-use rate will have enormous benefits for millions of consumers—and should inspire them to other energy savings in their homes.
But home control and lighting and HVAC systems now can help people save energy at home. Tie in energy monitors, and who needs to wait for the smart grid?
“That’s a valuable feature set, but it’s not going to be measured in the millions or tens of millions any time soon,” says West. “The market for people willing to spend money to save energy just isn’t that strong.”
Still, West says, he sees an enormous amount of awareness, interest and intrigue in home energy efficiency. “We’re seeing the momentum happening even as we speak. People are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of home control and living a connected lifestyle.”
Energy efficiency will fit into that. “I think people will want to put energy on cruise control so everything will happen automatically,” he says.