Coinciding with the start of the 2010 football season, two new companies have thrown their “hat” into the demand response “ring”. While that’s understandable given the critical role demand response will play as part of the future of our nation’s energy infrastructure, it does seem like a case of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
To explain, Silver Spring Networks just announced that it will offer demand response software for use on its existing meters, and Tendril is now offering its residential demand response products in conjunction with Lockheed Martin’s larger system. While Silver Spring and Tendril may have good products to offer, they’re not the ideal energy management package. It’s a bit like the Cincinnati Bengals: quite capable on offense, but lacking the winning formula because of their defense. My point is that Silver Spring and Tendril are both missing something in their approach to the demand response market. Experience.
Silver Spring certainly has significant expertise building networks, but as Michael Kanellos of Greentech Media reports, they are a communications company. And, as those of us who have been serving this market for the last 30 years know, successful demand response requires the kind of fine-tuning and innovation that only experience in the field can perfect.
Likewise, Tendril, who are focused on the residential energy domain, have only a few pilots in progress. When compared to the lessons we’ve learned from large-scale roll-outs, will their limited understanding prove to be enough to manage the mission-critical supply and demand challenges that demand response programs address? Partnering with Lockhead Martin will certainly help, but utilities will have to negotiate the ins and outs of two systems as a result of the integration. In a time where the complexities of managing supply and demand are greater than ever before, I can’t see the practicality of using a system that tries to streamline multiple approaches into one, when existing and proven demand response solutions already allow utilities to manage both residential and commercial and industrial customers.
Like football, demand response is complicated and not for the fainthearted. A successful NFL team relies on coaches with experience and knowledge of the intricacies of the game, and an efficient game plan. From our experience with over 500 utilities across the country, we know that our customers not only want, but demand the same. Utilities need a partner that is entrenched in demand response, who offers enterprise software and next-generation hardware and services that will meet all of the utility’s current and future needs. The new entrants definitely have their work cut out, but in the meantime, we see the news as further validation of the importance of demand response and intelligent energy management.