Calico Energy Services is facing a lawsuit from a utility client, has replaced its CEO, and is seeking financing to stay afloat. It’s bad news for the smart grid integrator, and potentially bad news for utility partners like Commonwealth Edison and partners including Schneider Electric, Aclara and Battelle.  

News of Calico’s financial troubles emerged this week in a lawsuit filed by the city of Naperville, Ill., accusing the Bellevue, Wash.-based company of failing to deliver a working software platform for Naperville’s $22 million smart grid project.

According to newspaper reports, the lawsuit claims that Calico failed repeatedly to deliver working versions of software to help city residents receive energy and rate plan data and interact with the city’s municipal utility. The city is seeking reimbursement of $799,550 it says it paid Calico for this still-unmet software need, part of a broader $22 million smart grid project involving fifteen partners, including Elster and Schneider Electric.

The lawsuit also stated that Calico representatives told city officials last month that it no longer had enough personnel to finish the project, and Naperville City Attorney Margo Ely told the Naperville Sun newspaper that Calico was “on the brink of bankruptcy.”

We called Calico’s headquarters on Wednesday and Thursday. The employee who answered the phone declined to comment, but did read this email statement from Henry Lin, Calico board member and the company's new interim CEO:

We are still in business, but undergoing some restructuring and financing. We continue to be committed to delivering energy management services and technology to our clients. On the question of insolvency, we are working on a financial restructuring and financing to turn the company around, but we are not in bankruptcy. However, Mike Miller has stepped down as CEO, and the board has appointed Henry Lin, current board member, as interim CEO and executive director.

Lin is a managing director of Point B Capital, the venture capital unit of management consulting firm Point B, which invested in Calico in 2011. Miller joined Calico in 2009 and served as CEO, president and on the company’s board of directors, according to his LinkedIn page, but his name is no longer on Calico’s website as an executive or board member.

Calico was founded in 2009 with the goal of creating an “energy intelligence suite” of software to link a multitude of utility systems into a common services-oriented architecture. In 2010, it merged with Chicago-based Invaluable Technologies, a company founded in 2004 with experience providing demand-side management for Commonwealth Edison.

By 2011, the merged company was promoting an integrated utility IT platform to provide head-end and load control management, commercial energy management, data collection for Energy Star filings, demand response administration, and other services. It was also inking partnerships with a number of smart grid vendors, EV charging system makers, energy efficiency providers and the like.

If Calico has run into such severe financial and operational difficulties that it can’t complete a web energy portal, as Naperville’s lawsuit alleges, that may be why we’ve heard so little news about these partnerships.

For example, Calico and smart metering vendor Aclara launched a partnership in 2012 to deliver a customer engagement and demand response platform, linked to other smart grid systems via Calico’s enterprise service bus architecture. But the partners only announced one utility customer for the service, and Aclara, which is now on sale by parent company Esco Technologies, has not said anything about that partnership for some time.

Likewise, Calico had been a partner with Schneider Electric on bringing the grid giant’s Wiser home energy management product line to market. But in recent months, Schneider has announced other partnerships with and AutoGrid -- and has declined to provide details on its relationship with Calico.

Calico has also licensed technology from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a U.S. Department of Energy lab managed by Battelle, that allows different devices to exchange information to “self-balance” power grids based on both electrical and economic information. It’s unclear how that technology, part of a broader portfolio of PNNL’s work on “transactive energy,” could be affected by Calico’s financial troubles.