Summary:

The buying spree in the smart grid-smart building nexus keeps going, this time in France, where Schneider Electric has bought building energy management software providers Vizelia and D5X. Chalk it up to what’s set to be the biggest greentech acquisition trend of 2011.

Pelco changes to Schneider Electric

The buying spree in the smart grid-smart building nexus keeps going, this time in France, where Schneider Electric has bought building energy management software providers Vizelia and D5X. Terms of both deals were not disclosed. Chalk it up to what’s set to be the biggest greentech acquisition trend of 2011.

We’re talking about building energy management: a boring topic that’s gotten quite exciting for startups in the field. Grid and building controls giants like Schneider, Siemens, ABB, General Electric and Honeywell have been shopping in the space recently, and a Lux Research report to be released Tuesday predicts building IT will be one of the hottest greentech M&A spaces of 2011.

Building energy management is a tricky and varied market. Most buildings don’t have sophisticated building automation systems that can give visibility and control into HVAC, lights, IT and other building power draws. When they do, it’s often through a mishmash of different equipment from different vendors using different standards. Indeed, services make up a big chunk of revenues for building energy management specialists such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls and others.

At the same time, that mishmash leaves a lot of room for improvement, and a host of software and equipment startups have emerged to help. Differentiating what they do, and how they differ from one another, is a trickier matter, Lux reports.

The allure of adding technology that can squeeze 20 percent or more energy efficiency from an existing building control setup is hard to pass up, apparently — especially when it comes with the low capital costs, high potential return models more typical to classic Silicon Valley software and high-tech startups. Vizelia and D5X certainly fit that model, with 12 and 27 employees each, respectively, but both with expectations of revenues in excess of €4 million ($5.3 million USD) this year, according to Schneider’s press release.

Vizelia offers “real time data monitoring of energy consumption, maintenance planning and property management,” according to Schneider’s press release. That sounds a bit like the intelligent commissioning promised by startups such as Scientific Conservation, the facility-wide functionality promised by Cimetrics’ real estate portfolio-wide energy management service, or perhaps Cisco’s EnergyWise building-mediator project — the latter based on technology from Cisco’s acquisition of Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence back in January 2009.

D5X, for its part, offers real-time tracking of building occupancy, data network management and lighting, blinds and ventilation control, according to Schneider’s press release. That sounds like a combination of lighting control startup Daintree Networks, HVAC optimization software maker BuildingIQ, and building data management that could come from the likes of Cisco, all rolled into one.

Just how these technologies might find their way into Schneider’s global portfolio remains to be seen. The French building control and electrical systems giant is a company of acquisitions, with many of its products and services better known for their original names than the Schneider brands. Those include industrial automation from APC, inverters from Xantrex, circuit breakers from Square D, and building energy control systems from TAC, among others.  It’s also working with IBM on bringing building management to enterprise scale, and Cisco on its Building Mediator project.

As for Schneider’s competitors, they haven’t been standing still. In October, Siemens bought Site Controls, an Austin, Texas-based maker of software to optimize air conditioning based on occupancy sensors. It’s one of a set of intelligent HVAC startups using software to squeeze more efficiency out of systems, unlike other startups with more energy-efficiency HVAC equipment.

Honeywell has also been buying startups, though it’s been more focused on expanding outside its building controls expertise back up to the smart grid. In May, it bought OpenADR server maker Akuacom, and in July, it acquired submetering vendor E-Mon, both for undisclosed amounts. The action is also coming from demand response players such as EnerNOC, which has rolled out a suite of building energy management services based on acquisitions it has made over the past few years.

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Image courtesy of Pelco Photography / Michael LoMonaco via Creative Commons license.

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