GE announced a smart grid acquisition today, the purchase of Australia-based Opal Software. It’s a move that expands the company’s smart grid software portfolio but also gives GE a pathway into the lucrative Chinese market by having a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Opal’s operations in Canberra, Australia’s capital, give GE a platform from which to test products in a developed country with a supportive stance on clean energy while building ties within Asia.

“By bringing Opal Software’s proven technologies together with GE’s solution platforms, our talented teams will drive the next wave of software solutions. Opal Software will help secure GE as a smart grid technology leader and meet the needs of the fast-growing Asia Pacific region,” said Matt McKenzie, general manager, Asia region for GE’s Digital Energy business in a company statement.

Opal makes software that allows utilities to switch between various platforms and offers data migration services that will allow GE software to communicate with non-GE products. Opal software products also help manage the building and management of networks that utilities use, thus allowing GE to broaden its smart grid services beyond meters and power grid equipment, Earth2Tech explains.

It looks like Australia understands the value it has for companies looking to pave a road to China. Greentech Media cites Paul Adler, an official at the Australian Trade Commission as saying, “Many view Australia as a stepping stone into the big pie . . . Australia is a fantastic incubator.”

Other companies doing cleantech work in the Australia region include building management systems startup Building IQ, which was a finalist in the innovation competition at GreenBeat 2009; Grid Net, which is teaming with utility company Energy Australia on smart grid offerings; and Aurora Algae, which plans to open a pilot plant in Australia. Fellow biofuels player LanzaTech is based in neighboring New Zealand.

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