Silver Spring Networks and GE have charmed another utility for a smart meter pilot. Chicago-based utility Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) last week filed for regulatory approval of a pilot with 141,000 smart meters that will involve 23 different combinations of consumer-focused features and technologies for energy management. At the time, ComEd spokeswoman Rachel Gerds told us that ComEd had already recommended some of the vendors that it would work with but wasn’t ready to disclose them. Well, this morning ComEd announced that it plans to work with smart meter provider GE and smart grid network provider Silver Spring.
This is the second large smart meter pilot win for GE and Silver Spring together in as many months. In April, Florida utility FPL announced that it would work with Silver Spring and GE (along with Cisco) to roll out 1 million smart meters. Silver Spring and GE have been winning over an increasing amount of utilities for the simple reason that utilities like established players.
GE is relatively new to the smart meter space, but has its massive engineering resources to develop a technically sophisticated meter. Silver Spring was founded back in 2002 (before smart grid was a Super Bowl ad term) and has raised over $150 million in funding.
ComEd, which has 3.8 million customers in Illinois, is touting this trial as one of the first ones to focus so closely on consumers, so there will be other third-party vendors that provide gear for home area networks and energy management tools. ComEd is looking at including alternative pricing plans, web interfaces, in-home displays, home area network control systems and programmable thermostats. Silver Spring is increasingly acting as a consultant to utilities rolling out smart meter trials, so all those energy management toolmakers should probably be really nice to Silver Spring if they want to work on more utility projects.
ComEd plans to use the results of the year-long trial to find out which technologies are the most effective at changing behavior and are the most used by consumers, presumably for the best price. ComEd says that information could potentially affect other utilities’ smart meter deployments as well as future smart meter customer education programs. The smart meter program still needs to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, a process that typically takes about six months. ComEd’s Gerds told us that upon approval, installation of smart meters could begin as early as November 2009.