June 2, 2014
Why Google, Comcast, and AT&T Are Making Power Utilities Nervous (Ehren Goossens, Mark Chediak, and Jim Polson May 29, 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek)
Posted by Orrin Judd at June 2, 2014 9:20 PMBecause its customers are still hooked up to the grid, Vivint is able to sell any excess power back to the utilities under state-mandated net metering programs. Vivint and others are also learning how to deploy smart technology that can consolidate energy savings from millions of homes and businesses. Vivint offers a security system that incorporates computerized energy-conserving features--including the ability to set thermostats and control appliances. Utilities can contract with home-automation companies like Vivint to get their customers to defer the use of big appliances or turn down their air conditioning units during peak periods, helping utilities avoid power outages or the need to buy power on the spot market to make up for shortages. Consumers like it because they get paid for saving energy.Google, which holds a wholesale power license, remains coy about its energy ambitions. Yet it's already a power generator through its more than $1.4 billion invested in clean energy. In February, Google acquired Nest, which makes a "learning thermostat" that can be adjusted via mobile phone and helps homeowners get a better grip on their energy usage. That $3.2 billion deal "ought to give utility officials a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs," says Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril Networks, an energy services management company based in Boulder, Colo. AT&T entered the smart thermostat market last year."The next 10 years are going to change the electricity industry more than the past 100," says Patty Durand, executive director of the SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative, which counts utilities and tech companies among its members. "Consumers will be the recipients of attention, instead of the way utilities have treated them for the past 100 years." Power in the U.S. has begun to flow both ways.
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