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Control4 Brings Smart Grid to 20,000 Nevada Homes

NV Energy will equip at least 20,000 homes with Control4 energy management systems, marking one of the first U.S. utility demand response systems to make it out of pilot phase.


Control4 Brings Smart Grid to 20,000 Nevada Homes
Control4 Energy Management System (EMS) includes the ZigBee-enabled EC-100 controller and wireless thermostat.
Julie Jacobson · January 31, 2011

There’s lots of talk in utility land about smart energy, but has anyone really gone beyond the pilot phase?

Control4 claims to have the first win, announcing that NV Energy in Nevada will roll out energy management systems based on its EMS 100 platform.

The utility plans to offer Control4 EC-100 touchscreen controllers and ZigBee wireless thermostats to “a minimum of 20,000” customers that opt into its energy management program.

Control4 says it has a purchase order for 20,000 EMS systems (one thermostat, one EC-100 per household) to be shipped in May.

It is unclear what NV Energy will do with the products – a spokesperson was not available for comment – but the Control4 products are ready for anything, including demand side management that NV plans to implement.

As part of its NVEnergize smart grid deployment, NV Energy will provide customers with energy consumption and cost information and allow them to voluntarily participate in demand response (DR) events.

Richard Walker, president of Control4 Energy Systems, tells CE Pro that consumers will be able to use their EC-100 touchscreens to opt into utility programs to shed loads at peak times. For example, an energy-conscious household might give the OK to cut back the air conditioning when electricity is in high demand.

Initially, however, it appears that NV Energy will use the Control4 products simply to provide information, a la the Prius effect.

It might “make recommendations of what kind of solutions are available” such as energy efficient refrigerators, and estimate the payback based on a household’s energy usage, Walker suggests.

NV Energy will also use the devices to do a little advertising, maybe peddle some pricey but eco-friendly wind power to particularly green families.

The EC-100 being deployed by NV is a complete home control system, equivalent to Control4’s HC-200 (retail $399) with integrated touchscreen but without the inputs/outputs. It communicates via ZigBee Pro to smart devices in the home (home automation profile) and potentially a smart meter (smart energy profile). The unit communicates to the utility via Wi-Fi and the home network.

Theoretically the unit could be used to control lights and appliances – including load-shed modules – but those devices are not being deployed en masse by NV Energy.

Still, it’s nice to know the capability is there.

Walker says that NV Energy selected Control4 because “we have a platform that they can add to.”

He says the utility hasn’t exactly said they’re going to build out a NV Energy app store … but they could.

Walker was not certain if NV Energy would be giving away the Control4 systems for free, but he did say the utility had big plans to promote the program through national outreach starting in June.

The Control4 products will be professionally installed and there is an “RFP out to a number of potential providers – potentially retailers to companies that specialize in doing installations,” Walker says.

Over the next several years, NV Energy plans to expand its demand-response portfolio from 150 MW to a goal of close to 400 MW.

Numerous demand-response pilot programs have been launched nationwide over the past decade, but Control4 believes the NV Energy implementation is the first full-fledged utility rollout in the U.S.

The project is powered at the back-end by Control4’s new Advantage platform for utilities. The platform enables remote management of the home area network (HAN), secondary communications for demand response and pricing, and advanced data collection and device control.

“The Advantage API and Advantage Console allows utilities to deploy similar network management strategies for their other assets (computers, smart meters) as they can for deployed HAN devices,” says Paul Nagel, VP of business development for Control4.

It also provides richer features than what is currently defined by the ZigBee Smart Energy Profile (SEP), according to Nagel: “The Advantage API exposes advanced data logging, device capability and control not provided under ZigBee SEP1.0 or 2.0. This allows a more feature rich experience on the customer facing Web portal provided by the utility for their customers.”

image
Control4 Advantage ecosystem linking utilities and the home area network (HAN)



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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