Ambient Becomes Duke’s Latest Smart Grid Partner

Duke Energy, one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., has added yet another technology partner to its smart grid team. Newton, Mass.-based Ambient Corp., a decade-old company that develops data communication networks for electrical distribution systems, said this week that it has signed a “long-term agreement” with Duke to provide communication technologies for the utility’s next phase of its smart grid deployment. Ambient and Duke were fairly tight-lipped on details of the contract, but they did say it calls for Ambient to provide the utility with its X-series communications nodes, which would transmit data from residential and commercial smart meters and other applications back to the utility’s network operations center.

It’s unclear how large Ambient’s immediate role will be in Duke’s smart grid build-out, but getting its foot in the door even with a small initial contract is a significant win. Duke has announced ambitious plans over the next five years to add intelligence to the electric grid throughout its service regions. Those plans include the deployment of 700,000 smart meters in Ohio later this year, and, pending regulatory approval, 800,000 smart meters in Indiana. The utility also says it is “laying the groundwork” to bring smart grid technology to the other states it serves — North and South Carolina and Kentucky.

With this agreement, Ambient becomes the latest smart grid partner for Duke. The utility has inked a $15.8 million deal with Echelon to supply smart meters in Ohio and Indiana, which could turn into a $150 million revenue opportunity. Duke’s biggest partnership is a 3-year deal with Cisco. The networking giant will provide digital communications architecture and work with Duke to install home energy management devices.

Duke has applied for $214 million in stimulus grants from the federal government for the installation of smart meters. If the utility receives the grant, that will be good news for Ambient.

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