IBM has announced today that it will be the lead systems integrator for NV Energy’s smart meter project.

In applying lessons learned, the focus on this deployment, which is called Advanced Service Delivery (the phrase 'smart grid' is just so passé) by the Nevada utility, is the customer. Or at least the companies are trying to make it so.

NV Energy held events with IBM in Las Vegas to talk about the consumer benefits of smart grid projects and how the new meters and web portal will allow customers to better understand and control their energy use.

Although the first meters are just now being put in place, there are already multiple fact sheets and features like “How Does ASD Help Me?” presented on the NV Energy website. However, the answer to that question is not significantly different from how other utilities have justified their smart metering plans.

Essentially, the benefits are presented as tracking energy use daily, knowing what your bill will say before you see it, and taking advantage of energy efficiency programs (like demand response, although that specific phrase rarely appears in the educational materials).

The Nevada utility is planning to install 1.4 million smart meters by the end of 2012. The approximately $300 million project is being partially funded by the Department of Energy’s $138 million stimulus grant.

“What the stimulus did was drive the comprehensiveness [of this program],” said Allan Schurr, VP of Strategy, Energy & Utilities at IBM. Instead of just installing meters, the utility is looking at ways to upgrade many of its operating systems.

IBM will provide integration not only for the smart meter data, but also for adding demand response systems and GIS into existing legacy systems for NV Energy.  Schurr noted that the utilities that IBM talks to are moving beyond mere metering, and are looking at distribution automation and transmission upgrades as part of the roadmap.

But for NV Energy, the real change is how it is engaging and perceiving its customers. “Its very customer-focused,” said Schurr. “They’re evaluating their own business model to see how they need to be more straightforward with customers.”

That change is part of a larger shift in the smart grid community to stop looking at consumers as one large lump of ratepayers. Instead, customers, whether they’re industrial demand response participants or households, are starting to be treated as the multifarious and unique entities that they are.

As part of its ASD program, NV Energy will be offering a voluntary tiered pricing plan that will start in 2012. The utility expects to have the first 10,000 meters installed by the end of this year.