Navigant Research Blog

Who Will Lead the Lighting as a Service Charge?

— April 25, 2017

The rapidly evolving lighting industry has recently given birth to a new and exciting development—lighting as a service (LaaS). The manifestation of lighting controls services to optimize lighting use is helping customers save energy and money. The emergence of the LED system as a major technological player in the lighting world has opened the doors to countless opportunities for efficiency and cost reduction by tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT) world. These two stories have led to the development of a new industry: third-party management of lighting systems, otherwise known as LaaS. Management services include technical, maintenance, financial, and many other lighting services.

LaaS Revenue Is Expected to Triple by 2025

The underlying technological advancement that has made the new industry possible is connected or smart lighting. The ability to communicate with a lighting network allows users to control and optimize their lighting use on the fly. Opportunistic companies and startups have caught on to this trend and have begun to offer third-party lighting management services. The LaaS industry is just starting to make waves in the industry. However, it’s expected to become a booming business over the next decade. LaaS generated $35.2 million in revenue in 2016. By 2025, it’s expected reach $1.6 billion.

As the LaaS industry is still in its infancy and a clear market strategy has yet to be established, there haven’t been any companies that have emerged as LaaS-focused companies. Most projects to date have been pilots and test cases. Thus, it has mostly been the larger incumbents that have paved the way in this fledgling industry:

  • Current, a startup within lighting heavyweight GE, is wrapping data and digital solutions around lighting upgrades with optional financing to provide a full suite of LaaS possibilities. It recently partnered with AT&T on a massive smart cities venture.
  • Enlighted, a Sunnyvale, California-based startup, has developed a LaaS platform that combines sensors, analytics, and controls. Unlike other LaaS competitors, Enlighted does not use this platform to sell lighting hardware. Instead, the company partners with luminaire manufacturers, facilities management companies, and electrical contractors to create an ecosystem of lighting systems.
  • Several other companies are exploring the LaaS space, including Philips, Siemens spinoff OSRAM, and Acuity. Acuity has made a number of acquisitions in the last few years in order to facilitate its expansion into the IoT market. These companies are still just testing the LaaS waters at this point.

The Race for the Best Marketing Strategy Is On

It appears that the trail for LaaS will be set and guided by the larger lighting incumbents. The window for small startups to emerge as leaders in the growing industry is shrinking, but opportunities are still available. Lighting giants such as GE and Philips sell through the facilities department of a company. If a solution is found that goes beyond building operations and is sold directly to the IT department, that could certainly cause a large enough shakeup in the market to influence decision makers and unseat the incumbents.

This is more easily said than done. There are no signs that this is being taken on by any new or established companies. LaaS is a new and exciting industry that is still very much in flux. The first company able to hone in on an effective market strategy will have the chance to grab the LaaS industry by the reins and lead it in exciting new directions.

 

Advanced Energy 2017 Report Shows the Future Is Here: Part 2

— April 25, 2017

While there are competing visions for the future of US energy policy, Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) has built a strong coalition of businesses in support of its vision of US energy policy—advanced energy—defined as “making the global energy system more secure, clean and affordable.”

This blog post is the second in a two-part series covering the key findings of the Advanced Energy Now 2017 Market Report, in its 6th year of publication in partnership with AEE. Navigant Research provides the market data and trend stories in the report.

The report offers a great way for readers to get a glimpse into several of the key trends affecting the global energy landscape covered in depth via Navigant Research syndicated reports, data services, and custom research.

The following are three of the 2017 Market Report key findings:

  • New business model innovation: Evolving energy consumer demands and the increasing ability of customers to exercise choice in a variety of ways are also accelerating a shift toward what Navigant Research calls the Energy Cloud. Customers are increasingly focused on engaging in the generation, purchase, and sale of energy (see the section, “Corporate Procurement of Renewable Energy Gets Creative”). If appropriately incentivized, these also can provide other services such as balancing, voltage support, and voluntary load management, and address broad industry goals of greater efficiency and resilience (see “New York REV Demo Projects Point Toward 21st Century Electricity System”). Meanwhile, a similar transformation is occurring in transportation, as discussed in the “Car Sharing, Electrification, and Automation are Converging into a New Mobility System” section.
  • Infrastructure for the future: replacing, retrofitting, and digitization: The supply and pricing of incumbent fuels and technologies will continue to affect future advanced energy market growth. For example, low oil prices affect natural gas vehicle sales and infrastructure (see the “Natural Gas Fueling Stations Continue Slow Buildout” section). On the other hand, smart transmission, distribution automation systems, and advanced metering infrastructure systems are now mainstream as the digitization of the electric-mechanical infrastructure moves forward. As a result, the grid will increasingly resemble a more sophisticated—but also more resilient and distributed—networked system, as discussed in the “Energy Storage Becomes the Glue for Virtual Power Plants” section.
  • The next frontier is already here: A number of industries reached tipping points or otherwise hit major milestones in 2016. For example, the first offshore wind project in the United States reached completion off the East Coast (see “Rhode Island Lays Foundation for US Offshore Wind”). With a 1,000% increase in revenue since 2011, the plug-in EV market is now eating into the traditional hybrid EV market in the United States and could surpass it in terms of revenue in 2017 (see “Plug-in Vehicle Options Expand, Stimulating Rapid Growth”). Meanwhile, the power of national policy priorities in China, the United States, and Japan continues to stimulate markets for solar PV, biofuels (see “Biofuels Meet Targets”), hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure (“Can Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai Make Hydrogen Work?”), and combined heat and power (CHP; see the section, “CHP provides Onsite Power Generation for Industrial Customers, and Others”).

2017 is shaping up to be another major year for advanced energy market growth—and Navigant Research expects the trends identified in this year’s Advanced Energy Now Market Report to accelerate.

 

Microgrids or VPPs or Both?

— April 25, 2017

What’s the difference between a microgrid and a virtual power plant (VPP)?

I like to say that there’s a 75% overlap between microgrids and VPPs. What they have in common is the aggregation and optimization of distributed energy resources (DER). Where they differ is that a microgrid has a confined network boundary and can disconnect from the larger grid to create a power island. In contrast, VPPs can stretch over much wider geography and can grow or shrink depending upon real-time market conditions.

The DER portfolio in a VPP is as equally diverse as a microgrid. Yet, the primary value proposition for a VPP is that the services from these DER assets flow upstream to a utility or transmission grid operator; services are not sealed off into an island from the larger grid.

Once I go through this standard definitional description, the most common follow-up question is: Which of these two distribution networks represents the best opportunity for vendors over the next decade? While pundits like to pick winners and losers, I see future growth globally for both microgrids and VPPs.

Four Examples of Energy Cloud Innovators

Four companies active in what Navigant Research has dubbed the Energy Cloud—which encompasses both microgrids and VPPs—will share the stage at an upcoming panel at the fourth annual Microgrid Innovation Forum taking place in Washington, DC on May 16.

Navigant Research uses the term Energy Cloud to describe transcendent changes sweeping over the electric utility industry. Rather than bigger is better, which drove utility planning for over a century, the shift is toward smaller and smarter DER portfolios. While increasing complexity in energy management, the evolution of a collective Energy Cloud also promises a more dynamic energy market in which buyers and sellers engage in transactive energy.

Each of these four companies has a slightly different take on the Energy Cloud:

  • Sunverge: This San Francisco-based solar PV and energy storage innovator is focused on VPPs that aggregate the DER installed at residences to provide value to utilities. Its recent initiative to sell its software independent from its hardware components speaks to the value of its software.
  • Enchanted Rock: This Texas company offers a fresh take on microgrids. Focused on ultraclean natural gas generation, the costs of its microgrids are so low that cost-conscious commercial and industrial customers are jumping on board. The key part of its value proposition, however, is wholesale market participation revenue.
  • Enbala Power Networks: Ranked No. 1 by Navigant Research in last year’s Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Virtual Power Plant Software Vendors, this Canadian company is hardly standing still. It has integrated machine learning principles into its new product architecture while also partnering with to develop a DER management system solution for utilities.
  • Blue Pillar: With its focus on Internet of Things (IoT) data management, this Washington, DC-based company’s claim to fame is the ability to bring networks of DER online quickly. Its approach is cost-effective due to the ability to squeeze more value out of existing asset base.

I think the VPP epitomizes the value of Energy Cloud trends since it addresses the so-called utility death spiral head on. If a residential home with solar PV and a battery are part of a VPP aggregation, the home can have it both ways. It can reduce its own energy costs while also contributing to the reliability of the larger utility grid.

The Energy Cloud is all about creating new relationships between and the grid. Which of these four companies do you think will have the greatest future impact?

 

San Diego Aims to Set the Pace for Smart City Networks

— April 21, 2017

The announcement by the City of San Diego that it will deploy over 3,000 smart sensors as part of an ambitious upgrade to its street lighting system provides evidence that we are on the cusp of a new phase for smart street lighting and city networks.

As part of an upgrade to 14,000 city lights, San Diego will deploy 3,200 of GE’s Current CityIQ sensor nodes to create a multi-application city Internet of Things (IoT) network. The intelligent nodes can support a range of applications, including gunshot detection, smart parking, air quality sensing, and vehicle and pedestrian monitoring. Deployment of the platform and fixtures is expected to begin in July and to be completed before the end of 2018. The upgrade is expected to save the city $2.4 million annually in energy costs.

Platform for Innovation

As well as supporting a number of smart city applications, San Diego is also looking at the network to provide a broader platform for innovation. According to David Graham, San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer, the goal is to allow the community “to put their hands on the heartbeat and nervous system of the city is our way of building a smart city app store.” Delivering on this vision will put San Diego at the leading edge of smart city innovations.

The project fits with broader trends in the smart city market. The benefits of LED lighting are now widely understood by cities and many also recognize the value of providing network connections to those lamp poles (even if local finances and politics can still be a barrier to actual adoption). There is strong evidence that smart street lighting is crossing the chasm to becoming a mainstream technology.

However, the use of street lighting networks as a multi-application platform for smart city development has yet to make that leap. Today, deploying and managing a connected street lighting network is challenging enough for many lighting and public works departments. They need to ensure this upgrade goes smoothly and that significant benefits are provided to the city in terms of cost savings and improved lighting services. In this context, implementing additional sensor applications is not a priority. In addition, the business case for implementing these secondary applications is harder to develop, involves the scoping of new projects, and requires buy-in from a wider range of stakeholders. For these reasons, most cities still see the deployment of additional application on their street lighting network as a pilot project, at best.

Lighting the Way

However, there are signs that these issues are being overcome. San Diego aims to lead the way, but it is not alone. Cities like Copenhagen, which is deploying a street lighting platform from Silver Spring Networks, and Eindhoven, working on an innovative lighting strategy with Philips, are also in the advanced guard—among others. As other cities gain confidence from the experience of these leading adopters, smart street lighting will move into its most exciting phase yet.

For further discussion about some of the most exciting developments in smart cities, please join us for the upcoming free webinar from Navigant Research, Smart Cities and the Energy Transformation, on April 25 at noon EDT. Click here to register.

 

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