Is the green home here?
A host of manufacturers are touting energy management systems this week at the Consumer Electronics Show. Verizon, for instance, said it would begin to test its energy monitoring system with consumers in New Jersey in the first part of 2011. Motorola, meanwhile, is touting the technology it obtained late last year from 4Home for controlling energy consumption in homes.
Panasonic has a display with everything from home fuel cells (which have been on sale in Japan for over a year) to dual-sidedsolarpanels and a centralized control panel. Panasonic showed us these things back in October at Ceatec. See video below: it's the same display they are showing in Vegas.
Meanwhile, General Electric is showing off Nucleus, its home energy manager, along with the WattStation EV charging station and its new LED bulbs.
And LG showed off its line of energy-efficient intelligent appliances.
The big question, though, is whether consumers will go for it. Not everything that appears at CES happens right away. LG was showing internet-enabled fridges back in the '90s. Tablets, now allegedly a growth segment, were the big news of the show in 2002 before fading away for eight years.
GridPoint tried to sell home energy management services ten years ago. It found few takers and shifted to focus on grid software. While GridPoint's success can be debated, the shift did allow the company to stay alive.
The fate of the concept likely will come down to the fee and how much a carrier or utility will be willing to amortize or subsidize the hardware costs. Installing a thermostat and wiring other appliances can cost $300 or more.
Verizon said it will charge a nominal fee that will get tacked onto your broadband bill. Over time, Verizon can recover the cost. It can even afford to suck up some of the costs if energy management services prevent customer churn.
In Texas, EcoFactor launched a trial program with Oncor in 2010 in which EcoFactor remotely took control of thermostats and AC units to save power. Consumers paid $19.95 for a wired thermostat and nothing for monthly services. (Ordinarily, the hardware would cost close to $500.) Obviously, the payoff is too long for the trial prices to become permanent. But founder Scott Hublou says that EcoFactor can reduce bills by 25 percent or more without pushing consumers outside of a comfortable temperature zone. A $100 utility bill means that EcoFactor can save someone $25 a month. If the company can guarantee $25 savings for $15 in fees, consumers will flock to it and the $500 hardware bill will get paid off in 2.5 years.
It is these mathematical formulas that will determine who wins and loses in the home.
Elsewhere, Silver Spring Networks and ClipperCreek have begun to show off an EV charging station managed by Silver Spring's software at its Redwood City headquarters. To date, Silver Spring has garnered most of its revenue by selling smart grid equipment and services. In 2010, it began to emphasize software and services for managing energy consumption, charging cars and even demand response.