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What’s Next in Smart Grid? IBM Picks 5 Companies to Watch

By Amy Westervelt

Jun 3, 2009

Despite the buzz surrounding the smart grid, to date it has consisted of technologies or services geared toward utilities, helping them save money, smooth out supply-and-demand curves, and use energy more efficiently.

Now, with a clear soft spot from the federal government for all things smart grid, investors and start-ups are turning to new opportunities in the market, namely products and services focused on consumers and corporate clients.

While energy management and demand response systems are already beginning to reap rewards for companies with large office buildings and data centers, the consumer market has remained largely untapped, save a few pilot studies.

Matt Denesuk, partner with IBM Venture Capital Group, sees that changing in the year ahead.

Denesuk’s group partners with venture capitalists to offer expertise and product partnerships to start-ups seen as key to IBM’s business; companies picked by the group typically wind up either being acquired by IBM or developing long-term partnerships with the tech giant.

We spoke with Denesuk to find out which companies and technologies we might see Big Blue championing in the not-so-distant future. Here's who he named:

1. Agilewaves

Offering both hardware (smart meters) and energy monitoring software, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Agilewaves is targeting small businesses that find its easy-to-read dashboard and automated alerts a simple way to monitor and control energy consumption.

2. Demi Energy

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has partnered with ESCOs (companies that conduct energy retrofits for business clients and share the financial savings that result) to get its Internet-based energy optimization system into offices and hotels.

As a sample use-case, Denesuk points to a hotel, where typically a service worker would turn on the lights and air conditioning in the morning, not knowing when the guest might check in. With Demi Energy’s software, the front-desk clerk can switch lights and thermal controls on as they’re checking the guest in, avoiding hours of wasted energy.

“It’s a very simple technology, which is what we’re seeing a lot of in this area,” says Denesuk. “Rather than developing a break-through technology, they’ve found a new market for a simple technology, and been innovative about their business model.”

3. Energy Hub

Like Agilewaves, EnergyHub is offering both hardware and software in what Denesuk describes as “a user-friendly, entry-level system with an interesting approach: you can buy the baseline system and then purchase add-ons as you need them or as they become available.”

4. Greenbox

Focused on software only, Greenbox is targeting both utilities and consumers with its web-based energy-monitoring tool and partnering with smart grid infrastructure giant Silver Spring Networks for the hardware.

In addition to providing an in-depth look at how much energy your home uses and for what, the tool allows you to compare your home’s energy usage with that of the average home in your community.

5. Google PowerMeter

Any product or service focused on smart grid for the home will be getting some stiff competition from Google once its PowerMeter offering moves from pilot testing to a full release.

Well, I have not known that

Well, I have not known that Denesuk’s group partners with venture capitalists have offered expertise and product partnerships to start-ups seen as key to IBM’s business. Very interesting and new fact for me so I really want to find more information about this subject in your website. I hope that I will manage to find this info in your website because I see that it is full of such kind of information. Moreover you have mentioned very useful software and hardware and I will definitely try to use all of them. Thanks a lot one more time for the interesting and informative article and I will be waiting for more such great posts like this one from you in the future. Sincerely, Kenny Patton from

Thanks for your posting about IBM's picks

Dear Amy,

I enjoyed reading your posting and blogs, nice work.
I hope you'll help us understand what's the substance in the 'Stimulus Package'?
Where and how it is going to help startup companies gain support for their efforts
into promoting CleanTech? We have very limited resources and your assistance would be very helpful.

Thanks and Keep on posting.

Steve Yang, P.E. aka solarMD

Stimulus Package

Hi Steve,

The stimulus package will provide grants for some companies - those working in areas like smart grid, battery technology, and solar energy that the government is directly investing in through the Department of Energy, for example. For other companies it will help in that it will create new customers - for example, there are incentives in the stimulus package for the installation of smart meters. That money goes to the utilities to buy and install the meters, but the smart meter companies really benefit.

Stoel Rives, a U.S. law firm has a great analysis of the stimulus, how stimulus funding works, and who is benefiting:

Hope that helps!
Thanks,
Amy

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