Internet protocol – the standard for Web communications – have long been standardised but Tang says that the realm of energy management requires much more. “When you dig into the details, there’s still a lot of work to do,” he said. It might not be very difficult to integrate a particular vendor’s software into PG&E’s back office systems but the utility wants to be able to do so without becoming “locked in” with a particular vendor.
Other utilities have lacked this foresight and have become locked in with vendors only to find out that their software is quickly outdated. PG&E even signed up multiple smart meter manufacturers so it wouldn’t be locked in with a hardware maker either. The utility wants to have the most compelling management tools available for its customers.
Google and Microsoft have been working with open standards for a long time and won’t have a problem with PG&E’s requirements. Other utilities and Web companies work from a different perspective but will certainly adhere to a standard interface as a way of guarding against the chance an expensive system would become obsolete after only a year or two.
Tang says that ultimately the point is that standardisation allows for PG&E to work closely with a third-party vendor to develop user interfaces. “If we’re doing this on more of a neutral stance, the innovation can be a lot bigger,” he said.
Pacific Gas & Electric
PO Box 56
Avila Beach, CA 93424-0056
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-7329