The rush of intentions from the Obama administration has repeatedly included funding for a major effort to create and empower a “smart grid” for electricity distribution in the US. It is said to be potentially one of the largest creators of new jobs, as well as an enormous saver of energy and carbon emissions. Ziff-Davis’s GoodCleanTech reports on it today (http://www.goodcleantech.com/2009/01/obamas_green_new_deal_to_inclu.php), as does GigaOM’s Katie Fehrenbacher in earth2tech (http://earth2tech.com/2009/01/26/faq-smart-grid/).
The $825 billion economic stimulus package contains various energy program funding lines, with a likely very hefty amount designated to create the smart grid. Italy already has, by the way, 30 million smart meters, according to Michael Kanellos’s “Smart Meter Map of the World” (http://greenlight.greentechmedia.com/2009/01/02/a-smart-meter-map-of-the-world-931/), so the reported intention of the new US administration to install 40 million such meters is far from unrealistic.
Who stands to benefit from a full-scale pursuit of the smart-grid concept? The first answer is IBM (http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/2009/01/ibm-selling-smart-grids-to-obama.html), but IBM is outside the purview of this blog.
There are several small- and micro-cap companies, public and private, who have potentially major roles to play in this new program. One is East Hanover, NJ-based Comverge Inc (Nasdaq:COMV, http://www.comverge.com/), a company that already has installed 4.5 million smart power devices, including meters and is in the post position in this race, although today its market cap is only about $92 million, and its stock is $4.21, down from a 52-week high of $20.65. Comverge says it has 500 utility-company clients on its books already.
Itron inc, based in Liberty Lake WA, is considerably larger, but also stands to benefit (http://www.itron.com/) . With a market cap of $2+ billion and a stock price hovering just under its 52-week high, it is clearly being watched by a lot more people. Itron is deploying 5.3 million smart meters for Southern California Edison, and is working with San Diego Gas & Electric and other utilities around the country. Itron has 30 years of experience and some momentum on its side, but it is near its highest valuation ever.
Boston-based EnerNOC Inc (Nasdaq:ENOC, http://www.enernoc.com/), has a market cap today of $186 million, and a stock price of $9.22, barely a quarter of its 52-week high of $37.47. It competes pretty directly with Comverge, concentrating on utilities and industrials as customers for its demand response services.
VC-backed firms that are not yet public (but most probably have plans in that direction) include Jckson, MS-based SmartSynch (http://www.smartsynch.com/), which is backed by $80 million from savvy investors like Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, and Siemens. You may also want to look at Redwood City, CA-based Silver Spring Networks (http://www.silverspringnetworks.com/), which has the vote of Kleiner Perkins and friends, to the tune of $75 million. And finally there is Arlington, VA-based GridPoint (http://www.gridpoint.com/), backed by The Quercus Trust, Susquehanna and others.
We would be remiss if we did not also mention the important grid buffering and storage demonstration projects under the umbrella of NYSERDA, being directed by privately held NYC-based Gaia Power Technologies (http://www.gaiapowertechnologies.com/) and using advanced lead-acid batteries supplied by New Castle, PA-based Axion Power International (EBB:AXPW, http://www.axionpower.com), which is also hovering at its 52-week low of $1.08, with a market cap of just $28 million, and also funded most recently by The Quercus Trust in a public deal.