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Building guru Schneider woos homeowners to energy savings

Top global building controls and energy management company Schneider Electric launched an energy-reducing program today targeting residential consumers.

Specifically, the offering is in demand response, which was a hot area last year. Demand response is program in which utilities can offer financial incentives for customers who turn down energy usage during critical or peak load times, usually during the day. The rollout of the smart grid has enabled such opportunities for companies like Schneider.

The move is indicative of an industry-wide shift towards home energy management offerings.

“The residential electric market accounts for approximately 21 percent of total electric usage globally,” said Don Rickey, senior vice president of energy business at Schneider. “There is a huge need for active energy management by consumers, and it does not have to be a complex process.

The company’s move into the residential energy management and demand response territory also reflects a trend in cleantech. While much of the focus in energy efficiency to date has focused on lighting and building controls  in commercial buildings, more and more companies are launching offerings aimed at the average consumer. Today, Intel showed off a residential demand response offering that uses its home energy dashboard. Earlier this month, Control4 and Silver Spring Networks teamed up for a demand response offering, nabbing a deal with utility American Electric Power. And EnergyHub and Vivent — the rebranded name of top home security company APX Alarm — also announced new offerings in home energy management.

Demand response is a sector that got hot last year with entrants like Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Tendril, Siemens and Silver Spring Networks. Residential demand response is also now heating up, although some argue it will quickly become a commodity.

Schneider’s offering, the Wiser Energy Management System, includes a smart thermostat (pictured, above, on wall) and in-home display (pictured below). The idea is that by making easy-to-use hardware that’s affordably priced, Schneider can win over a critical mass of consumers to opt into demand response to make such a rollout appealing to historically conservative utilities. For example, homeowners can automate their hot water heaters to turn on in time for their morning showers, then be off the rest of the time. Or they can opt to shut off their air conditioning during the workday. But one of the initial struggles met by home energy management offerings has been how to engage consumers who, by and large, have never actively managed their electricity use.

“Fundamentally, to get buy-in from homeowners we believe there needs to be a very big component of homeowner empowerment in this,” said Gary Kuzkin, a product manager for Schneider’s residential energy unit. The in-home display, for example, is designed with a digital clock on the front and has a colored backlight that shifts colors — say from blue to red — to reflect energy usage or a peak time when a resident could realize savings by scaling back on energy use.

“The goal of the device is to get you to look at the thing reasonably often,” Kuzkin said.

“Consumers are probably pretty far behind with education, and utilities are helping quickly provide the incentives for consumers to be involved in energy management,” said Mike Matthews, a business development manager in Schneider’s residential energy efficiency unit. “The return (f0r customers) is very quick as long as you engage it.”

The company is currently rolling out the program in a smart grid pilot of 60,000 homes in Naperville, Ill.

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  1. [...] Companies like Siemens, GE, Schneider Electric, LG and Intel are expanding their business to include  offerings in home energy management and electric car charging. As the smart, tech-savvy home becomes an increasingly important part of energy and technology [...]