Cisco aims to shrink energy costs with Connected Grid

Las Vegas – Imagine if the utility company in your area presented your company with a $2 million rebate cheque just for turning down the lights when they asked?

That’s exactly what happened to NetApp, a networking storage vendor, after using Cisco‘s (NASDAQ: CSCO) Network Building Mediator product. According to Sanket Amberkar, marketing manager, Smart Grid Solutions, for Cisco Systems utility companies in Canada and the U.S. provide incentives to users to shed loads.

Mediator is just one of several new products in Cisco’s Connected Grid portfolio, which was made available at the Cisco Live! Conference, held here. Connected Grid aims to help business and home owners better monitor, manage and cut down energy consumption.

New to the line up is Home Energy Management Solution which features the Home Energy Controller along with the Energy Management Services. This is Cisco’s first foray into home energy reduction products and Marthin De Beer, senior vice-president of emerging technologies for the company said Connected Grid is a vision for energy’s future. “This is cool and important for children and their future. The network will play a role in the management of energy.”

In addition to Cisco’s home energy products, Connected Grid will also encompass Smart Connected Buildings products. At the heart of this product line is Mediator 3.1 platform, which links many disparate building automation systems and protocols over the IP. This allows for better energy flow across buildings and networks.

Cisco said that the 20 mega cities of the world consume more than 75 per cent of the energy. Of that 75 per cent 40 of that is just in office buildings.

De Beer said that Cisco plans to work with utility companies and channel partners in hopes of creating an energy infrastructure that is end to end. The demand management tools that is a part of Connected Grid will enable not only carbon reduction but also a reliable stream of energy.

For NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP), the Mediator enabled the company to integrate multiple building systems across areas such as heating, lighting and data centre operations. NetApp’s Dave Shroyer, senior controls engineer, said by using Connected Grid solutions in part with its utility’s incentive program, the company dropped 1.1 Megawatts of power in 20 minutes during demand response events.

Amberkar said that utilities want to do demand response activities such as sending signals to customer to shed loads in return for rebates.

“In Canada and the U.S. we have good sources of power, but we still have outages. If you can reduce the bulk and frequency of outages it would benefit the utility company because it would not have to pay penalties,” he said.

Connected Grid brings intelligence into the utility network for substations to monitor equipment and devices like transformers for example. The network can bring back to central operations the monitoring information so that it can take corrective action in real time,” Amberkar said.

“It’s a form of preventative maintenance.”

Utility companies are struggling with power management. Many are dealing with maxed out capacity and the option for them is to build expensive power plants or buy power on the open market at 10 cents per kilowatt or higher depending on the demand.

“It will be cheaper to incent people to reduce their consumption and turn that power off for a couple of hours per day. And, in the NetApp example it pays for itself in a matter of months,” Amberkar said.

On the channel partner side, Steve Benvenuto, director of business development for Cisco, said the company is currently finding partners who work with utilities that sell into the IT department. “We need channel partners who have these kinds of business conversations and skills for substations. This is different and so we are recruiting partners who have knowledge of the business operations side with challenges such as refrigeration and heat,” he said.

Benvenuto added that he sees a big opportunity with partner to partner collaboration with Connected Grid solutions.

Follow me on Twitter: @PaoloCDN

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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