San Mateo, California-based eMeter has spent years researching and developing software that gives utility companies the ability to view where and when electricity is being used, and at what levels, in order to better manage their power grid. With this newfound ability, power providers are able to forecast demand much more efficiently and can avoid power blackouts. Ultimately, both the consumer and the power company will save considerable cash.
The energy crisis at the start of the decade, and the changes that came about in the aftermath, transformed eMeter into the company it is today.
To date, eMeter can count 18 utility companies as its customers including Southern California Edison. Revenue has increased by over 100 percent over the last three years. Income is expected to top $25 million in 2008.
When eMeter first marketed its products in the ‘80s and ‘90s, power providers didn’t express much interest in making the power grid smarter.
“Our timing was not particularly good 15 years ago,” said Cree Edwards, CEO of eMeter. “But we spent 15 years understanding the marketplace.”
In recent years there has been a push around the world to upgrade the power grid because of increased demand – in some cases outstripping supply, rising prices, and lacking security. Through legislation passed in 2005 and 2007, the federal government encouraged the transition to a smart power grid.
California has mandated that state utility companies make available market pricing information to all industrial, commercial, and agricultural customers by 2011 and to all residential customers by the following year. Smart meters and networking infrastructure make this possible by collecting, sending, and retaining power consumption information.
Pacific Gas & Electric, not an eMeter customer, is currently installing 9.1 million electric and gas smart meters in California while Southern California Edison is installing 5.3 million smart electric meters in both commercial and residential buildings by the year 2012. Southern California Edison is using eMeter’s smart meter platform.
“There’s a lot to do and having the model demonstrated successfully and building out a mass market with all the meters and infrastructure is really important,” said Edwards. “What Southern California Edison is doing, they’re ahead and their success is critical to market expansion and market acceptance.”
According to eMeter, market knowledge accumulated in the 1990s made it a lot easier to work with utility companies today with its latest generation of products. In 1984, Edwards co-founded CellNet Data Systems which specialized in utility wireless data communications services including time-of-use prices, power outage detection, and other enhanced services. CellNet Data Systems had a successful initial public offering in 1997 and several members of management used proceeds to start eMeter in 1999.
“Utilities are difficult to learn and understand,” said Edwards. “It takes a while to understand how to communicate with utilities. But once they’re motivated to move and have a clear objective, it’s a pretty straight-forward process.”
Today, eMeter’s biggest challenge is meeting the demand from utility companies. “There aren’t a lot of people that understand the space, so there are not a lot of people you can hire to help deploy the systems,” explained Edwards.
New competition from the likes of a newly formed partnership between Google and General Electric, and a range of start-up companies, are motivating eMeter to constantly innovate and enhance the product line.
Edwards believes Google is a long way from developing easily deployable technology for a networked power grid and added that eMeter is also collaborating with the technology giant on new online payment systems.
2215 Bridgepointe Parkway
San Mateo, California 94404
Southern California Edison
P.O. Box 6400
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729
Pacific Gas & Electric
PO Box 56
Avila Beach, CA 93424-0056
CellNet Data Systems
125 Shoreway Rd. San Carlos
San Carlos, CA 94070
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06828