With DOE grant money in hand, the Pecan Street Project, based in Austin, TX, is aiming to spur the evolution of grid-connected home energy management with a project it calls the Energy Internet Demonstration. Housed at the University of Texas, the project team is allocating half a million dollars to run up to five home energy management technology trials. The trials will run in as many as 1,000 homes, with monies split among winning bidders. Responses are due on May 11.

You can access the Pecan Street RFI here.

The budget is not lavish, but the project aims to do more than just put home energy management system vendors through their paces (the RFI calls them 'HEMS' for short).  Project team members are looking to break the mold on utility-sponsored HAN trials by taking an outside-in, consumer-focused approach that identifies what consumers want.

According to the RFI: “The [project] purpose will be to support and advance the development of industry standards relating to the interoperability of HEMS with utility smart grid systems and consumer systems. As part of the field testing, each selected HEMS provider will receive access to electric vehicles with in-home charging and in-home energy storage.”

Here are some more highlights and takeaways:

  • The project will also include rooftopsolar, with a total project budget of $2 million.
  • The HEMS teams will also receive support from Austin Energy. Austin Energy is building out a $58.5 million enterprise Customer Information System from Oracle. The CIS project team will specially configure multiple pricing models and features to test with participants, and winning HEMS partners will be able to test their technology across multiple pricing models.
  • A heavyweight cast of team members will join Austin Energy members from organizations as far ranging as National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the University of Texas, Texas Gas Service, and Environmental Defense Fund.  The review and advisory committee includes representatives from ERCOT, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative and Oncor, among others.
  • Companies that participate will have the opportunity to showcase their technology in a 711-acre mixed use redevelopment underway in Austin, TX.

What’s the bottom line?  Although the Pecan Street budget is not large by smart grid standards, the project promises lots of collaboration, transparency (the freely available RFI is a case in point), a significant breadth of home energy technologies, and in-kind support.  The HAN market is crowded with players (see our HAN vendor taxonomy for more), many with promising technology but limited R&D budgets. Pecan Street provides a real-world test bed. Plus, it's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders, and some vendors are laboring under restrictive utility non-disclosure agreements -- a marketing handicap.  We look forward to learning who will be participating in the project and to providing progress updates as it moves forward.