One of the great debates in information technology is spilling over to the energy business as smart grid installations spread.

The Department of Energy and residents of the City of Idaho Falls are about to find themselves on the cutting edge of the debate as smart meters designed to be open to third-party developers are installed over the coming months. The city council approved the selection of Elster to design its smart grid system, allowing for automation of data collection from the city’s newly installed smart meters.

The project in Idaho Falls is part of a $178 million smart grid demonstration project for the Pacific Northwest run by the DOE.

Information technology specialists have long argued over the benefits and downsides of opening their technology architecture, allowing third-party developers to come up with applications and systems that can be used on open architecture systems. Many firms have taken an increasingly open approach, believing that innovation occurring on an open platform they operate will have long-term benefits, while their counterparts at firms with closed and closely guarded architectures have taken the approach that proprietary ownership of code, platform and system is best.

“With multi-technology capabilities and an open architecture, Elster’s EnergyAxis solution will integrate with third-party Smart Grid technologies to create a powerful, comprehensive system for Idaho Falls,” the company said.

“Elster’s selection as part of the competitive Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project is a testament to the power and functionality of our EnergyAxis solution,” president and CEO of Elster Solutions Mark Munday said in announcing the city council decision. “In addition to our reliable Smart Grid solutions, our core value of supporting open industry standards enables us to partner with multiple technology vendors and continuously scale to meet our utility customers’ current and future needs.”

Elster is working with a number of other firms to support the city’s smart grid deployment, including Tendril, which will provide smart thermostats, in-home displays and load control switches. Breaking Energy has spoken extensively with Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck in this podcast, and covered Siemens’ investment in the start-up firm here.