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14 November 2019

Itron rides high on smart grid adoption, braces for storm


Itron is looking to make a splash at European Utility Week, with the past year boasting huge deals with public and private utilities around the world. It seems the company is on its way to comfortably carving out a huge slice of the smart grid and connected lighting market, but still faces bitter rivalries.

Riot has noted how the utility market is undergoing change, as various companies pursue diverging paths – some are going for generation, others are focusing on transmission and networks, while customer relations is another lucrative option. For smart grid suppliers like Itron, this multitude of choice is fantastic for business. Energy firms must implement new infrastructure to accommodate their increasingly flexible role in the market.

Last week, Itron signed a contract with US utility, Rock Mountain Power (RMP). Itron’s OpenWayRiva will be used to modernize RMP’s grid network in Idaho and Utah, providing smart capabilities such as outage detection, meter-to-transformer mapping and meter temperature monitoring. RMP will also now operate Itron’s OpenWay Operations Center software. This oversees the sharing of analytics between distributed metering devices and the utility’s own centralized system.

Itron’s recent quarterly results were solid, boasting a net income of $18.1mn, down 9% year on year. Total revenues were up 5% to $552.9mn. By segment, Networked Solutions – products which require the IoT and collaboration with broader Itron systems – was the largest, bringing in 59% of this quarter’s revenue. Device Solutions – hardware which can be deployed without communications ability – made up 38%, while the remaining 3% was derived from Outcomes – software, operations and analytics services.

September saw another large major US deal for the company, in the form of a 5-year project with Xcel Energy, a huge utility in central USA with millions of customers. Itron is providing smart meter upgrades, as well as distribution automation.

Furthermore, in February the company signed two separate deals with utility providers in the Chicago and NYC areas, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Consolidated Edison (ConEd) respectively. As a result, ComEd upgraded 140,000 streetlights with Itron’s Streetlight Vision Central Management System (CMS), while ConEd rolled out a pilot of 9,000 wireless, battery-powered gas leak sensors – which could turn into a much bigger project.

In Australia, Itron partnered with Vinci Energies in April to provide Canberra with smart lighting and smart energy services, using Itron’s Streetlight Vision portfolio. Another deal followed in August, with Western Power, to provide Western Australia electricity distribution and metering upgrades to serve 240,000 customers.  Other Itron expansions this year included a 670,000 unit deal with Jamaica Public Service in which Itron provided smart electric metering facilities.

Itron – along with other smart grid suppliers such as Landis+Gyr – has been a vocal supporter of the Wi-SUN standard. Both companies operate many of their offerings on the technology. Wi-SUN announced earlier this year that it is now used by 91mn devices. Itron acquired Silver Spring Networks in September 2017, a major Wi-SUN advocate, which immediately boosted Itron’s revenue by 18% in the following quarter – allowing it to plow into the streetlight sector.

Separately, a report released this week by Oracle Utilities further illustrated one of the changes taking place among energy suppliers. Of the 150 utilities surveyed, 71% use cloud software for their offerings. Just three years ago, only 45% of those surveyed were considering using such services. Furthermore, 74% surveyed were likely to push Cloud Deployment for resource management over the next five years.

This is to be expected. Customers are increasingly wanting more data, and a more responsive and pinpointed service. Furthermore, cloud computing is seen as critical for a company’s continued success and expansion. As data sets grow ever more vast, efficient platforms are needed to oversee and utilize them. Cloud computing also benefits from being incredibly flexible to the changing demands of an expanding and modernizing utility.

Itron has developed its own cloud-based mobile meter data collection and management platform, Temetra, which currently hosts 24mn meters worldwide. It was launched in North America in Autumn 2018. The Temetra system presents utility data in graphs, and calculates average flows, as well as high and low values. The platform can also optimize utility service routes, creating efficient work orders based on the data collected regarding leaks and theft. Customers include Thames Water, the UK’s largest water utility.

Customers that have installed Itron ERTs (Encoder, Receiver, Transmitter unit – basically a connected meter) can practice advance Automated Meter Reading (AMR), with daily or hourly readings possible. Currently, Temetra supports Itron’s 60W, 100W, 100W+, and 500W water meter ERTs. In 2020, the company hopes to widen this to gas metering.

It must be noted Itron still has some notable competition. We have recently taken note of connected lighting provider, Telensa, which seems to be making well calculated moves to increase the cumulative value of its offerings. In conventional metering, expansion into water and gas is important for Itron’s continued success, but in those markets, it faces strong competition from LPWAN vendors.