Weekly Update

Are Honeywell’s Days as King of the OpenADR Market Numbered?

Honeywell bought Akuacom this summer, and in doing so, it also bought a lock on the market for a key piece of technology for OpenADR, an automated demand response specification that’s one of the few open source technologies in the smart grid space. That technology is Akuacom’s demand response automation server (DRAS). What that means is that right now, if you’re a utility that wants to use OpenADR to control customers loads, you’ve got to turn to Akuacom’s DRAS to accomplish that.

Maybe not for long, though. Last week, I spoke with Albert Chiu, PG&E’s senior program manager for demand response, who named three other companies he believes are working on an OpenADR DRAS of their own — Lafayette, Calif.-based Utility Integrated Solutions (UISOL), Chicago-based Stonewater Control Systems and defense contracting giant and smart grid heavyweight Lockheed Martin.

Let’s examine what each of these challengers has that could rival Honeywell’s current monopoly.

What Can UISOL Offer?

UISOL President Ali Vojdani confirmed via email on Monday that his company is developing a DRAS, but declined to comment further. UISOL has deep roots in the OpenADR specification working with Berkeley Labs, and it’s developing an open-source version of OpenADR as well. UISOL also makes a demand response management system called DRBizNet, now in use by grid operators including PJM, Midwest ISO and California ISO. Adding a building-side DRAS to that utility-scale management platform would seem like a natural next step.

What Can Stonewater Offer?

Stonewater is a quiet, 10-year old company that, besides its military contracting work, makes software and hardware to manage building energy for utilities including Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison and companies including Gap Inc.. In an interview last week, Stonewater President Kevin Kriegel wouldn’t say if he was working with Lockheed Martin on OpenADR. But StoneWater is in the market with its own client logic integrated relay (CLIR) box. The CLIR box is essentially a translator between an OpenADR DRAS, which takes energy and pricing signals from the utility, and a building’s energy management system that has to carry out load-shedding tasks based on those signals and report back the amount of power shed. Customers for Stonwater’s CLIR boxes include Southern California Edison,which is replacing a set of CLIRs developed by Berkeley Labs.

What About Lockheed?

Defense contracting giant Lockheed’s SEELoad demand response platform plans to use OpenADR to control household loads in partnership with home energy management startup Tendril. It could expand that list to other partners, George Karayannis, an executive at the company, told me in a Monday interview. He wouldn’t say if Lockheed was working on a commercial DRAS product, though it has built a prototype. Lockheed also has a suite of smart grid management platforms, both for utilities and for corporate enterprise-wide energy management, and an energy efficiency services division that delves deep into building energy management. A DRAS-type device could be a way to link all those platforms together for a more complete offering.

There’s a lot at stake in the OpenADR race. Right now it’s used to control only about 85 megawatts of load in California. But its status as an almost certain candidate for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s list of national smart grid standards makes its future bright indeed. Utilities in North America and Asia want to use OpenADR, and SiemensSchneider ElectricJohnson Controls and Echelon are incorporating it into their building management systems.

Honeywell is a member of the OpenADR Alliance. Still, the company might have an interest in keeping the DRAS market to itself. At the same time, customers would obviously like to open it — more vendors, after all, means more competition and lower prices. Last month, the utility standards development group UCAIug completed its work on the first version of OpenADR system requirements, and a version 2.0 is coming. That may move OpenADR into a place where one vendor can’t be said to have a lock on just how it’s implemented anymore.

Question of the week

Who will challenge Honeywell’s dominance in the OpenADR field?