After a few months of investor (and media) speculation, BC Hydro confirmed on Monday that Itron won the contract to install nearly two million OpenWay meters over the next two years as part of the its smart grid deployment.

The British Columbia utility estimates that the project will save about $70 million in the first three years and more than $500 million in coming decades through improvements in operational efficiencies, energy efficiency, reduction in theft and the elimination of manual meter reading. The communications network will be provided by Cisco. The entire contract, which includes meter data management and software, is estimated at $270 million by the companies involved. 

The decision to go with Itron, according to BC Hydro, was due at least in part to its experience delivering to other large utilities, including Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, CenterPoint Energy and Detroit Edison.

"Itron is a top-tier metering system provider with proven smart meter solutions, extensive utility experience, and a clear commitment to ensuring BC Hydro achieves our Smart Metering objectives," Gary Murphy, Chief Project Officer of the Smart Metering Program for BC Hydro, said in a statement.

Cisco already had a relationship with the city of Vancouver to use its Network Building Mediator to check the energy consumption on a few municipal city buildings including City Hall. In addition, residents will be able to use Cisco’s online EcoMap to find ways to reduce their energy use and carbon footprint. The deal with BC Hydro is just another step forward for the networking giant, and the largest deployment of its technology so far in this space.

“Cisco is proud to be a part of BC Hydro’s efforts to modernize its electric grid," said Laura Ipsen, Senior Vice President and General Manger of Connected Energy for Cisco. "This highly secure, IPV6-based smart grid communications infrastructure deployment -- featuring Itron’s OpenWay  technology based on Cisco’s reference design – will help enable BC Hydro to improve safety and reliability, enhance customer service, reduce electricity theft and energy waste, and improve operational efficiencies.”

BC Hydro’s business case states that starting in 2012, customers will receive a rebate for buying in-home displays to help monitor and reduce energy use. Although there’s an endless array of home energy management systems, few are available in stores, and the business case suggests that the choice for BC Hydro customers would be something they could go out and buy, rather than ordering it through the utility.

Since Cisco already has one foot in the door, it is likely that its Home Energy Management system, which is basically a dashboard for the home, could be on the short list of products that the utility is considering. 

In addition to Itron and Cisco, BC Hydro has revealed that Corix Utilities will install the meters and Capgemini will provide implementation and technology integration services.