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While energy efficiency companies are making good inroads with enterprise customers, getting consumers to engage with energy-saving devices has been an ongoing struggle within the smart grid industry. Part of the issue is the struggle to figure out designs and setups that actually engage consumers; the other is getting utilities to sign on.

Home energy controls startup Control4 looks like it has made strides towards conquering both issues today. It announced it has won a deal with the Ohio unit of utility American Electric Power to roll out 1,000 of its devices. Control4 is also teaming up with smart grid communications superstar Silver Spring Networks, shedding more light on the latter’s previously announced plans to offer a demand response solution.

Together, Control4 and Silver Spring are offering a home area network solution with smart grid and demand response functionality (demand response is a hot sector of the smart grid that allows energy users to earn financial rewards for decreasing their power use during peak times at the behest of the utility). The teaming is meant to pair Control4’s attractive display designs — some of which come paired with consumer-friendly iPhone and iPad apps — with Silver Spring’s powerhouse smart grid tools.

Silver Spring will essentially become a reseller and offer Control4’s devices on top of its demand response offerings. If Control4’s devices do their job, then Silver Spring could see more consumers take advantage of demand response pricing.

“As an industry we recognize the importance of winning consumer support for utility smart grid initiatives early in the process.” said Eric Dresselhuys, marketing chief and executive vice president of Silver Spring Networks in a statement. “Control4’s in-home devices make smart grid benefits tangible to consumers.”

The technology is currently being deployed by AEP in northeast Ohio. AEP will roll out 1,000 Control4 devices for a smart grid pilot to study how customers engage with home energy management; 200 pilot participants will also get automated load control via Control4 thermostats. The cash for the project comes in part from $150 million in stimulus funding. The project also includes the deployment of 110,000 smart meters.

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