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http://xrl.us/bij3ti A new report from Pike Research forecasts that 276 million smart grid communications nodes will be shipped worldwide from 2010 to 2016, with annual shipments increasing dramatically from 15 million in 2009 to 55 million by 2016... this will represent a total industry investment of $20.3 billion during the seven-year forecast period, with annual revenues increasing from $1.8 billion in 2009 to $3.1 billion by 2016..."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Re: New Report: Smart grid could cost $476B up from $165 billion in 2004 forecast !!!

Report: Smart grid could cost $476B
Rick Merritt

5/24/2011 11:43 AM EDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Costs and benefits of building a smart electric grid have more than doubled as the vision of a digital, networked power utility has expanded, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute. Sensor networks are on the rise as one of the big and under-served opportunities in the diverse terrain of the smart grid.
The EPRI report estimated the cost of upgrading the U.S. grid could range from $338 to $476 billion, up from $165 billion in a 2004 forecast. Benefit estimates have also skyrocketed to a range of $1.2 to $2 trillion, up from $660 billion estimated in 2004.

EPRI's previous estimates did not include enabling plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles, renewable energy sources, grid-scale energy storage, distributed generation and demand response applications that let consumers adjust energy use based on changing energy prices. Benefits of a smart grid include reduced carbon emissions, energy savings and reduced blackouts that cost $10 billion per event.
Most of the costs of building a smart grid—an estimated $231 to $339 billion—are in the back-end electric distribution system, the report said. Smart grid costs also include as much as $32.3 billion in back-end IT systems for electric utilities and another $3.7 billion in cyber security hardware and software.

More. http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4216278/Report-Smart-grid-could-cost-476B

Monday, May 23, 2011

Duke Sees a Future With Cellular The mega-utility isn’t throwing mesh or PLC out the window, but it’s making the case that cellular has arrived.

Duke Sees a Future With Cellular

The mega-utility isn’t throwing mesh or PLC out the window, but it’s making the case that cellular has arrived.

Duke Sees a Future With Cellular
The iPhone references in the smart grid world usually revolve around consumer-facing appsthat will be unleashed once smart meters and communications networks are in place. But what about on the grid itself?
For Duke Energy, it sees every communication node “as an iPhone for the modern grid” in terms of building a future-proof and dynamic network, according to the recent white paper, “Duke Energy: Developing the Communications Platform to Enable a More Intelligent Electric Grid.”
The paper, authored by David Masters, Manager of Technology Development for Duke Energy, and issued at DistribuTECH, lays out a potential communications network for the mega-utility. There’s a little bit of mesh radio, a dose of powerline communications, and a commitment to leverage public carriers.
“Duke has no desire to be in the communications business,” Masters wrote. “We need to harness already existing expertise and capabilities that the cellular networks provide in designing, building and maintaining the communications.”
The paper is certainly not a PUC filing, and so it is not the final world in Duke’s smart grid deployment plans. But the decision to stick with cellular for the wide area network (WAN) does not come as a surprise to some experts.  “A lot of utilities are asking themselves if they want to be in the telecom business,” said David Leeds, Senior Manager for Smart Grid Research at GTM Research.
Bruce Walker, Vice President of Gridwise Alliance, testified to the Federal Communications Commission in 2009 on behalf of National Grid (where he worked at the time) that the FCC should consider allocating the broadband spectrum necessary to meet the future needs of smart grid. 
“Americans have become largely dependent upon energy and communication technologies and their existence and functionality is an integral part of our society,” he testified in 2009. “Today, we are on the precipice of a journey that will inextricably link these two technologies together and modernize the way we think about and use our resources.”
Until recently, however, utilities have been wary of relying on the public carriers for plenty of good reasons, including bandwidth, security, reliability, coverage and cost. Walker said that each of those issues need to be teased out individually, including making sure that during an emergency, such as the events of 9/11 or the blackout of 2003, the utility’s communications needs are at the top of the priority list.
Thought leaders in the industry, Walker noted, have been tackling these issues for some time. The telecoms have also been eager to play in this space, so prices have come down dramatically in the past two years. If a utility is big enough, like Duke, it has the luxury of being able to step back and really look at how it can utilize all of the resources in its region. “This was the thinking of where the industry needs to go,” said Walker. “If you could partner with a ATT or Verizon to develop the service, now you’ve saved a fortune and more importantly time and effort.” Mark Munday of Elster Solutions also told Greentech Media in December of last year that utilities would soon start making more use of the existing cellular networks.
Masters said this architecture was already being deployed in Ohio, where they are using utilizing the Verizon network, with the Ambient nodes and the Echelon PLC and meters for the majority of the Ohio deployment. The nodes have access to both internet and external ethernet, serial and USB interfaces.
Currently, the architecture uses the public carriers to connect to each distribution transformer and then uses Wi-Fi, powerline communications or 900 MHz to connect to endpoints such as meters, sensors and distribution automation equipment. Masters told Greentech Media that each region will see a unique solution as the technologies progress over time. “Duke Energy benefits from the economic and technical economies of scale that have been unlocked by the public wireless carrier ecosystem,” he wrote in the white paper.
The details of Duke’s vision also highlight that there is no single winner. For certain mission-critical applications, public carriers will likely never be the ideal choice. The muscle of Duke Energy, however, is creating opportunity for other smaller utilities that might not have the bargaining power that Duke has when they come to the table with the largest telecoms.
As the smart grid progresses, the relationships between utilities and telecoms will not only multiply, but deepen. “This solution is more adaptable,” said Walker. “I applaud the telecom and utility partnership, which has the opportunity to push the modernization of the grid.”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Profitable Smart Grid Penny Stock Aims for a NASDAQ Listing

Tom Konrad CFA

A NASDAQ listing could bring a quick profit to investors who buy now, but beware the business risk.

Ambient Corp. (ABTG.OB) offers an Internet Protocol (IP) smart grid communications platform to electric utilities.  So far, they have exactly one customer: Duke Energy (DUK).  Duke selected Ambient's X-series communication node solution, which flexibly gathers data from multiple smart meters and relays it to the utility.  For instance, in some cases Duke is using Ambient's nodes to gather data from both Echelon Corporation's (ELON) smart meters using data over powerline technology, and Badger Meter's (BMI) smart gas meters which use a wireless mesh to deliver data.

Based solely on its deal with Duke, Ambient became profitable in the last quarter of 2010, and gained more ground in Q1 2011.  Yet as readers following the American Superconductor (AMSC)/Sinovel (601558.SS) saga know, over-reliance on a single customer can be very dangerous.  You can't get much more reliant on a single customer than Ambient is on Duke.

That said, Duke Energy is not a hyper-competitive Chinese wind company with investments in any of the company's competitors.  They are a regulated utility, and, as such, their moves are more transparent and conservative rather than the enigmatic and abrupt.  Major changes in Duke's strategy come out of the regulatory process, and are part of the public record.  Regulators also tend to prefer a go-slow approach, which means client acquisition for companies like Ambient is slow and painful, but also that their clients are less prone to fund competitors and start refusing deliveries with little warning. 

There are advantages to having Duke as a customer as well.  Duke has been a leader in smart grid deployment, and given the conservative nature of utilities, if a smart grid solution is seen to work well for Duke, other utilities will be more likely to adopt it than to opt for a technology that has not yet been widely deployed.  One potential market expansion may come from Duke's merger with the smaller Progress Energy.  But there is also the risk that Duke might switch to the technology from Progress energy's ownsmart grid project.  Overall, though, I think the merger will be good for Ambient, since their interoperability makes them a natural choice for a merging company trying to consolidate two systems.

Hoped-for NASDAQ listing

The single customer is the main reason to be wary of Ambient stock.  The reasons to be optimistic include the company's current profitability, strong balance sheet, and plans to aim for a NASDAQ listing.  The company's major shareholder, Vicis Capital, has given Ambient's board permission to conduct a reverse stock split to boost the company's current $0.08-$0.09 share price over the $4 threshold needed for a listing.  

The company is also working to raise their profile by retaining a PR firm, Elevate Communications of Boston.  I'm not sure when the firm was retained, but I received my first press release from them when Ambient released their 2010 results in February.  They contacted me again last week, although they did not respond when I requested an interview with the CEO in preparation for this article. I mainly wanted to ask him about their prospects for finding other customers, and why nothing has come of theR&D effort with ConEd in 2007.  Assessing why past potential deals did not materialize might give some insight into Ambient's future prospects.

That said, the fact that Ambient only has one customer is old news.  

What's new news is that the one customer has become lucrative enough to push Ambient into profitability.  I'm not sure how much of the current profitability is due to stimulus-related smart grid spending by Duke, but I trust that it will likely continue for a few more quarters, if only because Ambient does not seem to be in a hurry to complete their reverse split and get listed.  So I'm betting that there will be at least a few more good quarters to get investors excited and give a quick return to those who get in now.

Other investors seem to think so, too.  The stock price found a bottom around $0.075 and started moving upwards since the positive Q1 earnings and revenue numbers.

ABTG chart

Conclusion

I think Ambient is worth speculating on at the current $0.09 stock price.  If they manage to find another big customer soon, I'd consider them a good long term buy, but as it is I'm more comfortable holding for less than a year to take advantage of the currently growing profitability and potential listing.


DISCLOSURE: Long ABTG.OB.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smart Grid Markets More EVs on the road = more headaches for utilities?

Quick Take: Despite the complaints, there are also things to like about EVs. In an era when demand growth is disappearing due to energy efficiency and demand response, EVs represent a source of growth. What's more, if utilities are allowed to control when EVs are charged, they will provide a much needed sponge for late night wind power. – Jesse Berst
 

A new report on a study conducted by Accenture says the majority of consumers would consider buying a plug-in EV (PEV) as their next car. But the report also makes it clear that consumers want to be able to charge their vehicles when and how they want, with no interference from utilities or charging service providers. That and other consumer likes and dislikes could raise the cost and complexity of managing electricity demand and grid congestion, not to mention the charging infrastructure.
 
Accenture's report, Plug-in Electric Vehicles: changing perceptions, hedging bets, says 67% of consumers are unwilling to allow charging service providers to limit when they can charge their cars, and that another 20% would accept limits only if they coincided with times periods they selected. 62% of the survey respondents don't want battery swapping, which could limit the opportunity for charging at off-peak times when battery swapping companies would be most likely to recharge their batteries.  And a total of 55% would only plug in their cars when they needed to charge them, and not every time they park, a factor that could mean less predictable charging patterns and reduced demand for public charging facilities.
 
PEV drivers also would need a more "supportive" infrastructure to fully adopt all-electric PEVs, although the report notes that 71% of respondents would prefer plug-in hybrids, which could run on gasoline or diesel when the battery charge is low. That's backed up by findings that 85% say all-electrics don't have the range they need for routine daily driving, and that  most don't think there are enough charging stations and that charging times take too long.
 
"As drivers get behind the wheel, they may become more open to fully electric vehicles and battery swapping services. But denser charging networks and fast charging units will be required if utilities want to drive up demand for all plug-in electric vehicles," said Matias Alonso, Accenture's global managing director for utilities. "The uncertain demand for plug-in electric vehicles and their impact on the grid means that energy providers must choose between running the risk of network overload and the need for large infrastructure investment, or early deployment of smart technologies that proactively manage local electricity demand and supply."
 
The Accenture study involved more than 7,000 people in 13 countries.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ambient Smart Grid Communications Platform Takes Top Honor in UTC's Smart Grid Product Category

Companies:Ambient Corporation
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Press Release Source: Ambient Corporation On Monday May 16, 2011, 8:00 am EDT
BOSTON, May 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Ambient Corporation (OTCBB:ABTG.ob - News), a pioneer in the development of smart grid communications infrastructure, is proud to announce it is the recipient of the top smart grid product award at this year's Utilities Telecom Council's (UTC) Telecom 2011 conference held in Long Beach, CA. The UTC named Ambient's X-3100 communications node and the AmbientNMS®, key components of the Ambient Smart Grid® communications platform, as best products in the Smart Grid / Smart Meter Product / Service category.

The Ambient Smart Grid communications platform provides utilities with a standards-based, two-way communication infrastructure from which to launch current and future smart grid applications. Ambient provides a universal architecture that empowers utilities to choose the right applications for different segments of their customer base, while the AmbientNMS acts as an intelligent information dashboard for network monitoring. Using the platform, utilities instantly gain a level of visibility into their network operations previously unavailable, including enhanced basic applications such as outage tracking and energy loss detection, and deploy more advanced applications such as smart metering, distribution automation and demand response.

"Winning this award is a strong endorsement of our successful approach to building out smart grid platforms.  Just as the UTC did, utilities are recognizing that smart grid applications cannot happen without an infrastructure that is designed to integrate different kinds of services -- in addition to smart metering," stated John J. Joyce, President and CEO of Ambient. "We have been building such a platform for over a decade and this recognition substantiates our commitment to that end."

The Ambient Smart Grid communications platform is currently supporting more than 38,000 nodes operating in select geographies, providing benefits to more than 250,000 endpoints in real world, operational grid environments.  

About The Utilities Telecom Council

The Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) is a global trade association dedicated to creating a favorable business, regulatory, and technological environment for companies that own, manage, or provide critical telecommunications systems in support of their core businesses. Founded in 1948, UTC now represents international electric, gas, and water utilities; natural gas pipelines; other critical infrastructure entities and other industry stakeholders. For more information, visit www.utc.org.

The UTC Product Awards, an annual competition held at UTC EXPO, highlight the very best in critical infrastructure industry technology. Open to all exhibitors, each entrant selects a product and submits it for entry in one of four categories: Best Wireless Equipment, Best Telecom Equipment, Best Telecom Services, and Best Smart Meter/Smart Grid Products/Service.  A panel of utility telecom and IT professionals reviews all entrants by visiting the booths and learning more about the product and service beyond the description submitted.  The judges then choose winners in each category based on innovation, functionality, economical feasibility, and practicality as applied to the utility industry.

About Ambient Corporation

Ambient designs, develops and markets Ambient Smart Grid® communications technologies and equipment. Using open standards-based technologies along with in-depth industry experience, Ambient provides utilities with solutions for creating smart grid communication platforms and technologies. Headquartered in Newton, MA, Ambient is a publicly traded company (OTCBB:ABTG.ob - News). More information on Ambient is available at www.ambientcorp.com.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Duke Energy and China-based ENN Group Sign EcoPartnership at U.S. State Department

Press Release Source: Duke Energy On Tuesday May 10, 2011, 10:00 am EDT
WASHINGTONMay 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presided over a signing ceremony in which Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK - News) and China-based ENN Group joined forces to form an EcoPartnership with the city ofCharlotte, N.C., and the Chinese city of Langfang in Hebei Province.  
The EcoPartnership program is administered by the U.S. Department of State and the People's Republic of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). It focuses on and encourages a wide range of collaborative public-private activities designed to stimulate innovation and sustainable economic development.
This EcoPartnership agreement follows a Jan. 18, 2011, announcement of a Duke Energy and ENN collaboration on the development of green cities in China and the U.S.  
The EcoPartnership will focus on cleaner energy generation, smart grid technologies, energy storage and energy efficiency solutions.
Duke Energy and ENN's initial EcoPartnership projects will involve testing of solar power generation, substation and community battery storage capabilities, grid management optimization and energy efficiency initiatives.
The larger EcoPartnership collaboration will be complemented by best-practice sharing at the municipal level. Specifically, the cities of Charlotte and Langfang (which is located approximately 40 miles southeast of Beijing) will collaborate on promoting energy efficiency education and encouraging local community action.
Others may join this EcoPartnership in the future, including universities, additional companies and other public entities.
David Mohler, Duke Energy's chief technology officer, and Dr. Zhongxue Gan, vice chairman and CTO of ENN Group, signed the EcoPartnership agreement in the presence of Secretary Clinton, Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones and NDRC Minister Zhenhua XieCharlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and Langfang Mayor Aimin Wang also participated in the signing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CON-EDISON- "The company is continuing deployment of Smart Grid technologies that have attracted the attention of utilities around the country.


May 05, 2011 17:04 ET

Con Edison Reports 2011 First Quarter Earnings

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - May 5, 2011) - Consolidated Edison, Inc. (Con Edison) (NYSE: ED) today reported first quarter earnings of $311 million or $1.07 a share compared with $226 million or $0.80 a share in 2010. Earnings from ongoing operations, which exclude the net mark-to-market effects of the competitive energy businesses, were $289 million or $0.99 a share compared with $264 million or $0.93 a share in 2010.
"First quarter results were in line with expectations," said Kevin Burke, the company's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "The company is continuing deployment of Smart Grid technologies that have attracted the attention of utilities around the country. Our energy efficiency programs also are helping customers lower their bills while improving the region's air quality and environment. These innovative programs have the added benefit of deferring the need for additional capital investment."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ambient Corporation Announces Preliminary Financial Results for First Quarter 2011: Revenue up 613%

Press Release Source: Ambient Corporation On Thursday April 28, 2011, 4:38 pm EDT
BOSTONApril 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Ambient Corporation(OTCBB:ABTG.ob - News), a pioneer in the development of smart grid communications infrastructure, announced today that based on a preliminary review of its financial results, the Company expects revenues for the first quarter to be approximately $12 million compared to approximately $1.7 million in the first quarter of 2010, representing an increase of 613%. Ambient also expects to have its second consecutive quarter of profitability, and to generate approximately $1.1 million in net income.