Two smart-grid companies, EnerNOC (NSDQ: ENOC) and RuggedCom, posted strong second-quarter results this week after another, Itron (NSDQ: ITRI), announced record quarterly earnings last week.

The results are good news for the smart-grid industry and could signal strong sales ahead. But the sector still has a long way to go.

Demand-response firm EnerNOC, for example, posted a second-quarter loss that widened 28.6 percent to $10.4 million, from a loss of $8.2 million in the year-ago quarter.

But because of an increased number of shares, the loss was 27 percent smaller per share – a loss of 54 cents per share in the second quarter of this year, compared to 74 cents per share for the same period last year.

And the company beat analyst expectations of a loss of 58 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Second-quarter revenue nearly doubled to $23.7 million from $12 million last year, and EnerNOC’s gross margin also increased to 37.5 percent from 34.2 percent last year.

The company also raised its revenue guidance for the year to between $101 million and $107 million. It previously forecast revenue of between $99 million and $105 million.

In a research note Friday, Thomas Weisel Partners analyst Jess Osborne called the demand-response industry “attractive” and said he expects increased regulatory and utility support for demand response.

“We continue to see ENOC as a long-term winner,” he said, adding that the company is well-positioned in a high-growth segment with a high-margin offering “that is fast gaining traction.”

In Canada, Woodbridge-based RuggedCom reported a net income for its fiscal first quarter that grew more than sevenfold to C$1.7 million, or 14 cents per share, from C$200,000, or 2 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Revenue grew 59 percent, year over year, to C$12.8 million.

The company, which is traded under the ticker “RCM” on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is developing Ethernet switches and routers to help transmit data about the grid (see Clean Break posts here and here).

John Quealy, an analyst at Canaccord Adams, said the results are promising for an industry that has had to deal with plenty of delays (see Itron Misses Expectations and Greentech Lessons of the Week).

“Utilities have delayed decades of upgrading their distribution grid, and the technology has finally reached a price point and functionality where it makes sense to deploy,” he said. “Utilities are embracing multiple-year capacity spending plans and we continue to be in the early stages of the smart grid.”

Because utilities plan their capital-expense budgets five years in advance, smart-grid companies are able to enjoy fairly steady revenue streams once they get utilities to sign on, he said. That said, getting initial contracts can take more time than expected.

“Investors have to temper these results, because utilities don’t buy en masse when new technology comes along – they are very risk-averse buyers,” he said. “We see a handful of early adopters, but the bell curve of other utilities are going to want to [wait and] see this stuff work when it gets deployed.”

While many companies are seeing strong orders and some have translated orders into earnings, the sector’s growth is going to be “deliberate,” he said, adding that a new administration – and new state commissions – could result in slower decisions in a highly regulated industry.

Still, he said, as power prices increase, the future looks bright for technologies that will help customers make informed decisions about power usage as power prices increase.

“The macro [economic environment] just couldn’t be better, and the amount of movement and chatter among utilities is very very high,” he said. “It’s just about keeping expectations in check about when some of these awards will start entering the field and how that translates into profits.”