Demand Response Goes to the Cloud

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Cloud computing has been making inroads into the smart grid lately, in everything from smart meter management to smart city services integration. Monday brings two more bits of news on the smart grid-cloud front.

First, Lockheed Martin (s LMIT) has integrated its demand response technology with a cloud-based smart meter platform built for smaller cooperative utilities. Secondly, demand response provider EnerNOC (s ENOC) is turning to’s (s CRM) cloud to keep track of its customers. The two announcements represent two different entry points for cloud computing services into demand response and the smart grid more generally.

The Lockheed Martin announcement involves cloud computing for actual smart grid and demand response functions. In this case, Lockheed is integrating its SeeLOAD demand response platform with a smart meter data management cloud offering from the National Information Solutions Cooperative, an organization that helps more than 550 electric cooperatives and public power entities in the U.S. and Canada implement new technologies.

Using the cloud to manage smart meter data is a growing trend — witness meter data management startup eMeter’s deal to use Verizon’s (s VZ) cloud announced last month. But co-ops are an interesting new target market for these kinds of managed services, since they’re much smaller than the multi-million customer investor-owned utilities that tend to dominate the market.

That makes them a natural fit for smart grid systems that allow for a lot of outsourcing of complicated IT and communications functions, which is where NISC’s cloud-based smart meter platform is meant to fit in. Pike Research predicts that such smart grid managed services will grow from $470 million last to more than $4.3 billion in global revenue by 2015, and while big utilities will make up a reasonable share of that market, smaller utilities like co-ops are expected to be the next big wave.

Lockheed has been working with several co-ops on smart grid projects, and told me late last year that it planned to bring a broader co-op focused product to market in early 2011. Monday’s partnership would appear to be the first sign of that product, with an integration that could see Lockheed sending demand response signals and power pricing info across a NISC-managed smart meter network.

NISC is using its meter data management service at several sites right now, the announcement said, though it didn’t mention where Lockheed’s SEELoad may be deployed over it, or just how the two intended to bring it to market.  Lockheed is piloting its new SEELoad platform with Idaho utility Northwestern Power, but hasn’t announced any other customers yet.

EnerNOC’s deal with Salesforce isn’t managing actual smart grid utility data, but more EnerNOC’s internal customer data. The U.S. demand response leader said it will use Salesforce’s CRM and platforms to manage its marketing, sales and customer support services, as well as integrate it with EnerNOC’s network operations center (its “NOC”).

EnerNOC has been using Salesforce since 2006, in fact, though Monday’s announcement contained new tidbits about how it’s being used — including sharing “smart grid infrastructure” information with its customers. EnerNOC has a rapidly growing customer base and now offers services like energy efficiency, power procurement and building monitoring that go beyond its core demand response offering, giving it a reason to turn to Salesforce to scale up its customer relations to suit.

As more and more data emerges around the smart grid, the more necessary cloud computing will be useful. For more information on the smart grid come to our Green:Net 2011 event in San Francisco on April 21.

For more research on demand response and the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Image courtesy of Manyhighways via Creative Commons license.

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