The agreement will use GE’s demand response management software to control Energate’s platform and accompanying hardware options.
“Energate’s technology, experience and home energy management product portfolio, coupled with GE’s grid management solutions, can help to deliver energy-efficient benefits for utilities and their residential customers,” Mike Carlson, general manager of software solutions for GE’s Digital Energy business, said in a statement.
The integration is not just in theory, said Niraj Bhargava, CEO of Energate. He noted that GE and Energate have been talking for years and that the software products have been tested with potential utility customers. No utility customers have yet been announced.
Energate currently has about 100,000 homes enabled by its technologies, many of them with Oklahoma Gas & Electric.
Partnerships abound in the home energy management space. Energate works with Aclara, Elster, Silver Spring Networks, Tantalus and Trilliant. Other home energy startups have reached far beyond the utility space, however, by partnering with big thermostat makers, telecoms and security companies.
Although Energate’s focus is two-way demand response over AMI networks or broadband, it can also deliver one-way load control for utilities that don’t want two-way programs. But increasingly, customer engagement is being seen as an integral part of successful demand response.
“With the penetration of smart meters and past pilots, dynamic pricing is grabbing hold as a way to meet the demand management strategy,” said Bhargava. “That trend is real and heading in a positive direction.”
For companies that don’t have specialization in residential demand response, partnering is a must. The average homeowner is much more fickle than a business customer, and the value of demand response has to be tailored to explain what’s in it for the consumer.
As with other residential demand response partnerships, however, the proof comes with big contracts, not just integration. Many companies have partnered up software platforms or hardware to software platforms only to never see business materialize. While a few utilities have extensive programs, like Oklahoma Gas & Electric, there are far more that continue to pilot residential programs to death with no real intention of developing full-scale offerings.
Increasingly, utilities are looking for paths into the home that don’t involve additional networks or gateways. Energate, along with some of its competitors, has recently been touting broadband into the home -- a connection that many homes already have.
For now, there are more partnerships than there are big contracts to chase. But with 30 million smart meters in the field that can deliver varying price signals, the options available to consumers could finally be changing.