Big deals with big investor-owned utilities (IOUs) get most of the attention from press and analysts. But in the last 18 months, most of the major vendors have created special packages aimed at the “small power market” – small to mid-size IOUs, municipals and coops. SAIC has its smart grid as a service. General Electric offers hosted GridIQ applications. Silver Spring Networks has a robust platform with several dozen partners. Meanwhile, companies such as Aclara and Tantalus have been targeting “small power” for years.
Many recent offerings are cloud-based services, where the vendor owns and operates all of the software. But Sensus has taken a slightly different tack in its just-released bundle aimed at the small power market. Sensus has pre-integrated its metering and distribution automation solutions with software from Harris Utilities. Company spokespeople claim the result is a “completely integrated suite… for meter data management, asset management and consumer engagement” that substantially reduces integration and deployment time.
This bundling approach is typical when software markets mature. It packs in a lot of value at a lower prices (especially when you consider the cost of custom integration.) The utility sector is not typical, however. Many utilities continue to be suspicious of packaged software and to believe that everything should be custom.
I’m convinced that small- to mid-sized utilities will get over this prejudice… because they can’t afford not to. And I’m convinced more and more vendors will team up to create bundles aimed at the small power market.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com. He consults to smart grid companies seeking market entry advice and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the US and abroad, he also serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Energy & Environment directorate.