Honeywell’s entrance into demand response sends shivers through the nascent industry

Earlier this month, Honeywell announced its acquisition of Akuacom, a Bay-area company that provides automated demand response technology and services for the smart grid. The acquisition beefs up Honeywell’s current smart-grid portfolio by enabling it to provide utilities and independent system operators (ISOs) two-way communication with energy management systems at commercial and industrial sites. This capability lets utilities and ISOs automate the delivery of price and reliability signals to these facilities and more effectively trim peak demand.

With nearly ubiquitous temperature and HVAC controls (several of which already interface with demand response software), Honeywell is already one of the “big four” building controls firms – along with Johnson Controls, Siemens, and Schneider Electric. The company is currently the largest residential demand response player in North America. It also has a presence in more than 10 million commercial buildings and thousands of industrial plants. As such, adding demand  response technology will let Honeywell leap from inside the building envelope to the utility and provide an end-to-end connection between energy provider and user to reduce peak energy demand and maintain optimum building efficiency.

The acquisition marks the beginning of industry consolidation that will see a handful of winners emerging from the demand response segment. Among them will be established early entrants like EnerNOC, and a half dozen or so alignments between large building control players and key demand response firms. There may also be one or two stranger alliances between large appliance makers and demand response firms, such as by the Tendril-GE pact. Thus, look for a few more high-profile demand response acquisitions to occur as  other stalwart control firms quickly follow suit in the wake of Honeywell’s Akuocom acquisition. Meanwhile, we also expect the vast majority of mass-produced, VC-backed demand response and building energy management firms to be frozen out of the market and fall off the map.