Written by Katie Fehrenbacher, 14 April 2009
Thanks to funds from the stimulus package and renewed attention to energy savings, 2009 is the year companies are planning to launch wireless energy dashboards that will sit in your home, monitor energy data from your electricity meter and let you know if you’re being an energy hog. While tech firms have been trying to sell you on the “digital home” for years — complete with wireless networks that can do everything from control your entertainment equipment to operate high-tech security systems to roast a chicken — the new energy management firms are keeping it simple by using low-cost hardware and open standards to monitor energy data.
This year is particularly important to these mostly young companies, as President Obama has pledged to help utilities install 40 million more smart meters (basically digital meters that create a 2-way connection with the power grid and the utility). Smart meters installed at homes can unleash data about the fluctuating price of electricity throughout the day, enabling consumers that have energy management tools to shift energy consumption to the time of day when power is cheapest. For utilities, that can mean better management of the power grid and eliminate the need to build out expensive power generating systems.
A half-dozen companies are launching their first energy dashboards this year, and a few others are starting to gain traction with already available online tools. One of the biggest differences between these firms is whether companies will sell directly to the consumer or to utility partners for upcoming smart meter rollouts. Several of the already-available options for consumers bypass smart meters and utilities and just help the interested consumer with a standard electricity meter. They’re cheap and available online, but they provide less detailed data.
The utility-focused tools use smart meter info to provide a deeper dive into energy analysis and can even control smart appliances for utilities to implement demand response events. But the drawback of such tools is that you’ll need a lot of patience and a little luck. To get hooked up with one of these tools, you’ll need to be in the footprint of a utility that’s rolling out smart meters, and at this point less than 6 percent of the U.S. population has a smart meter.
EnergyHub: EnergyHub makes a high-end energy dashboard that will offer Google Docs-style spreadsheets and graphs of resource use. EnergyHub recently raised Series A funding and says it’s working on a 50-home pilot trial in an East Coast city with a yet-to-be-named utility. The device will be sold direct to consumers online and through utilities. Available: Mid-2009.
Tendril: Tendril sells a combo of energy management services, including a wireless in-home energy display, a smart thermostat, a web-based energy portal, smart outlets and cell phone apps that can help homeowners diagnose and cut energy consumption. While the startup, which raised $12 million in Series B funding earlier this year, is now offering its tools to utilities, it’s also considering a direct-to-consumer approach. Available: Now, to utilities
Onzo: London-based Onzo makes a slick-looking energy display and wireless sensor kit that runs on energy harvested from the home electrical cable. The startup has raised £2 million ($4 million) from Sigma Capital Group and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE); SSE has placed an order for £7 million-worth of Onzo devices and services and has exclusive rights to Onzo’s products and services in the UK and Ireland. Available: Mid-2009
Agilewaves: Agilewaves‘ Resource Monitor tracks and manages energy, gas and water consumption in real time from web-enabled devices. The system, custom-designed for larger buildings and higher-end homes, needs to be installed by an electrician and can also be used to dim lights, turn on and off heating and cooling, and adjust smart appliances. The six-person, Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup is actively looking to raise a Series A round of funding. Available: Now
Google PowerMeter: The search-engine giant told us recently that it is trying to bring PowerMeter, its online energy information tool, to market sometime this year. Google is working with device makers — we’ve reported on GE and Tendril — and hoping to launch with a direct-to-consumer product as well as a utility product. Available: 2009
GreenBox: Like Google, GreenBox is focusing on the software side of things with its web-based energy tool. The team, founded by developers of the digital web platform Flash, is already working with utilities, including Oklahoma Gas and Electric and an as-yet-unnamed New York utility, and has also partnered with smart thermostat makers Energate and Golden Power Manufacturing. The company hopes to close its first round of funding by June. Available: Now, to utilities
The Energy Detective: The Energy Detective (or TED) is one of the few energy management tools that’s already available to consumers. The Charleston, S.C.-based company behind TED, called Energy Inc., says its system can save home owners 10-20 percent on their monthly electricity bill. Available: Now
PowerMand: Founded in 2006, Portland, Ore.-based PowerMand makes DreamWatts, a wireless energy management tool that focuses on making smart thermostats effective for cutting energy consumption. The company, which is partnering with facilities maintenance firms and utilities, provides a smart thermostat, an Internet gateway and a service running over PowerMand’s servers. Available: Now
Green Energy Options: Cambridge, UK-based Green Energy Options‘ home energy monitoring system, called the Home Energy Hub, comes in three display options: a small one-panel display, the Solo, which shows real-time pricing and consumption; the two-paneled Duet, which shows energy management of up to six appliances; and the Trio, which is a large touchscreen that can monitor up to 100 sensors. Available: Summer 2009 to consumers in the UK.
Energy Aware: Founded in 2005, the Vancouver, B.C.-based Energy Aware team has developed the PowerTab, a wireless energy display that collects current energy price and usage from smart meters. Demand response company Comverge distributes the device in North America, and the startup has raised close to $2 million in funding from angel investors in the Pacific Northwest. Available: Second-quarter 2009, to utilities
This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.