A Power Company At CES? A Digital Grid Tipping Point
For the first time, power company NRG Energy and its utility Reliant Energy are making a showing at the massive gadget love-fest CES. Why? As Reliant Energy President Jason Few told me, this is the beginning of the "digitization of the power grid."
By Katie Fehrenbacher, GigaOMFor the first time, power company NRG Energy and its consumer-facing Texas utility Reliant Energy, are making a showing at the massive gadget love-fest the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Why? As Reliant Energy President Jason Few told me in a phone interview from the show floor, this is the first time the company and the energy industry have really been able to take advantage of the “digitization of the power grid.” For NRG and Reliant, that means showing off a demo of a smart energy home complete with smart appliances, dashboards, meters, an electric vehicle (Nissan’s LEAF) and variable energy pricing. While this year’s CES wasn’t the first for Few — he formerly hailed from Motorola — it was a milestone for the energy company. Here’s my edited excerpt of an interview with Few: Earth2Tech: Is this the first show for Reliant and NRG?Few: It is. This is the first time that we’ve been here. We really consider the opportunity to be here … as a pivotal point for us and our industry, because we now have, for the first time, the ability to take advantage of the digitization of the grid. We now have the capability to deliver real solutions to our customer base. Quite frankly even if we had a desire in the past to do this, there was just no way to do it, and now we can. So being here at CES is an important step in demonstrating what we’re trying to do for our customers. E2T: Tell me more about the tipping point for this technology? What’s different this year?Few: For us, we’ve become the new entrant into the opportunity. If you look back historically, I think the people who have participated in the smart home market have, by and large, been manufacturers of entertainment products, whether that’s TVs or even gaming. People like Microsoft and others trying to bring together home automation and entertainment. Then you have security companies that have tried to bring this together. Now you have someone like us as an energy provider that has the opportunity to deliver a set of consumer services that leverages smart meters, and smart appliances from manufacturers such as Wolf, GE and others. So it’s a new integration opportunity for consumers in their homes, and as an energy provider, it creates an opportunity for us to participate.