Michael Bleby Reporter

Michael writes on emerging markets, architecture and engineering. He has served as a correspondent in Tokyo, London and Johannesburg and has written for Reuters, the Financial Times, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Smart meter technology for sale

Published 14 January 2013 10:19, Updated 28 January 2013 17:52

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One of the providers of electric vehicle charging technology for Victoria’s two-year-old electric vehicle trial programme is looking to commercialise that technology to get in on the ground floor of a market that is only just taking off in Australia and overseas.

Future use of electric vehicles and the roll-out of smart meters in homes across the country – Victoria aims to put them in all of the state’s residences this year – combined with planned introduction of flexible pricing that allows consumers to use electricity at different times according to price, is creating new markets for technology that will allow households to “talk” to the grid and purchase electricity according to market conditions.

Melbourne-based DiUS Computing, one of four providers of electric vehicle charging technology for the Victorian government electrical vehicle trial that is due to wind up this year, says it has at most 18 months to commercialise the technology it has refined during the trial before better-funded rivals catch up. In a situation familiar to many other entrepreneurial companies, DiUS now faces the challenge of commercialising its innovation.

“We’ve got an advantage on the marketplace in this space, we need to capitalise on that now,” says DiUS principal Joe Losinno. “It’s about trying to find a partner or series of partners, locally or abroad, who can put a sales and marketing overlay around the technology.”

Losinno says the software underpinning its ChargeIQ technology can, although designed initially to allow electric vehicle owners to charge their cars in the most economical way possible, be applied to all household electricity usage and will ultimately let customers set and manage their household electricity use by smartphone app or web application. DiUS has spent “in the vicinity” of $750,000 in research and development of the technology, he says.

The company has its work cut out to keep ahead of the game. Retailer Origin Energy already offers a service in Victoria that allows consumers to measure their electricity usage hour by hour, to manage their consumption better. Origin has also tied up with ChargePoint, one of the three other charging technology companies taking part in the trial, to develop recharging technology for cars.

While energy retailers are DiUS’s preferred partner – Losinno says any such partner could incorporate ChargeIQ into its retail consumer pricing structures – the environment for electricity purchase is changing. In years to come, it won’t only be electricity retailers who sell power. Electric vehicle producers, for example, could package electricity with the cars they sell.

“The whole energy market place is up for huge disruption and how it all washes out is just anyone’s guess,” he says.

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