General Electric (s GE) has unleashed a ton of news about new smart grid tools and partnerships today — just days before the company plans to report its second-quarter earnings, which analysts estimate will be down slightly. It’s hardly a coincidence that GE is drawing attention to its Ecomagination line, which includes its energy efficiency and power grid tools. The division has been a bright spot on the company’s balance sheet, although it’ll be tough to meet Ecomagination’s aggressive revenue goals in this economy.
The most interesting piece of GE’s announcement (to me at least) is the fact that it plans to launch its own home energy management software by 2010, dubbed Home Energy Manager, which the company says will act as the brain connecting all of GE’s smart devices, appliances and meters. The Home Energy Manager will also offer home owners a way to track, monitor and manage energy consumption via devices or the web.
Sound familiar? Yep, it’s the same type of software that Google (s GOOG) , Microsoft (s MSFT) , eMeter, Green Box and a dozen others have been building. GE and Google had even announced a partnership, which GE said might result in a commercial product using Google’s PowerMeter software.
GE tells us it will still work with third parties’ home software, via open standards. But as Kevin Nolan, GE’s VP of Technology for Consumer and Industrial, explained to us in a phone call today, “It makes sense for us to have our own tool, because we know GE’s devices best.”
The Home Energy Manager launch is part of a larger smart home branding effort that the company introduced, called GE’s Net Zero Energy Home offerings, which, combined with efficient lighting, energy storage options and power generation, will enable customers to have homes that produce zero net energy (carbon neutral) by 2015. The Net Zero Energy Home will also include GE’s smart appliances (like its water heater and dishwasher that are embedded with communications technology) as well as a smart thermostat, which it will start selling in 2010.
In addition to GE’s Net Zero Energy Home news, GE announced that it will be working with Maui power companies and researchers to build out a smart grid for the island. GE’s grid communications and control tools and energy storage gear will enable Maui Electric Co. (MECO) to better manage the power load, and add on more distributed renewables like wind and solar. GE is working on a similar smart grid project, a microgrid for the military that will enable a marine base to add more renewable power.