Itron and Comverge, now Itron Distributed Energy Management, have a tradition of technological innovation. By joining forces, we have the opportunity to combine OpenWay Riva technology with distributed energy management expertise in demand response and energy efficiency solutions. How will these solutions work together?

Historically, vertically integrated utilities focused creating sufficient supply and delivery to meet market demand. Demand management is a solution for shifting energy consumption in ways that are beneficial to the electrical grid—typically this means using less electricity during hot summer afternoons when the grid is congested, or during winter mornings when there isn’t solar production. In the residential and small business markets, demand response solutions are usually implemented with communicating thermostats or load control switches that are sent signals to automatically reduce energy usage. These devices can communicate over paging networks, public cellar networks, end-customer WiFi networks or AMI networks. That’s where Itron comes in.

Smart metering and network communications allow utilities to put in place time-based rates that better reflect the cost of providing electricity. These rates, combined with distributed energy resources (DER), allow customers to easily and automatically reduce or shift energy usage or choose to purchase electricity at a higher price. Smart metering and DER both generate great datasets that can be combined to provide insight into end customer behavior, energy usage and options for shifting that usage for the greater good.

When it comes to Itron DEM’s IntelliSOURCE Enterprise distributed energy resource management system (DERMS), which automates and supports all of the processes necessary to implement a demand management program—we are looking at ways to integrate the OpenWay Riva and the IntelliSOURCE Enterprise DERMS. We are at the beginning stages of this, but some ideas include producing an application running on a meter that could tell a load control switch to delay a water heater while an electric vehicle is rapidly charging, or an application running on a transformer that could tell a group of thermostats and other DER’s to reduce usage when that transformer’s rated capacity is approached. We’re also looking at how we could leverage sub-second meter data and DER data in real time to better forecast household load. Ultimately, these innovations will allow demand management to be used more frequently by utilities, or even a more reliable network for communicating with thermostats and load control switches.

In the demand response management, a clear shift for Itron is toward Distributed Energy Resource (DER) management, to continue to leverage highly effective load control switches and thermostats, but also incorporate new technology like batteries, EV chargers or solar inverters. This is why we’ve named the internal business unit Distributed Energy Management.

There are multiple possibilities in how we can create compelling solutions based on our combined technology. We have the opportunity to continue to innovate and impact the industry—and that’s certainly an exciting place to be.

Steve Hambric