In the smart grid market, GridPoint did one of those sudden right-hand shifts.
The company started out with a box that would allow homes to curb energy consumption by controlling different devices, said CEO Peter L. Corsell. While the hardware consisted of off-the-shelf components, the value of the box lay in the software developed by GridPoint.
GridPoint, however, discovered that there were only a limited number of upper-middle class homes that would want a device like that. More importantly, though, it found a larger opportunity existed in selling a scaled-up version of the software to utilities for demand response programs.
Since then, the company has landed development deals with a number of utilities. The company, for instance, is participating in the $100 million SmartGridCity project with Xcel Energy and working on a smart charging trial for plug-in hybrids with Duke Energy. GridPoint has also raised over $220 million. (Corsell will further detail the company's plans and contracts at Greentech Innovations End to End Electricity
taking place November 17 and 18 in New York.)
The best way to think of what GridPoint is that it's a network operating system software company, he said. Other companies will make the meters, routers and other devices and GridPoint will publish its APIs and run compatibility tests to ensure that everything works together. EnerNoc, which has been in the market for a number of years, is moving in a similar direction. Like the computer industry, players in smart grid are establishing niches and the whole industry is going horizontal
. It's one of the big trends in greentech to watch.
These deals and the funding have helped put GridPoint toward the front ranks of the market for software that will regulate power consumption. In the future, utilities will likely operate more like software-as-a-service companies than traditional power producers: A huge part of their job will lay in swapping and transferring power for optimal efficiency rather than cranking it out of turbines. As an attendee at the Emerging Technologies Summit that took place in San Diego told me: "This is the idea that Enron was supposed to be about."
It is also a competitive market: Trilliant, eMeter, EnerNoc, Comverge and Silver Spring Networks are in the same market with similar, overlapping products and services. Who will win? Who knows. Some competitors like to chide GridPoint for having to shift its strategy. Many of these companies have also been in the market longer. But it's also a huge opportunity. Virtually every utility is moving to adopt smart grid technologies and most of them are at or near square one.