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Internet Mavericks: Still Working Out of the Garage?

e-Commerce is consolidating, but there's room for the little guys too.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2000

where dynamic pricing is communicated down to more and more end-use customers. So it's not just for interruptible, it's for people who are on real-time programs, people who can participate in demand buyback, even for the people who have a very high value point, [such as] semiconductor plants—they want to stay operating no matter what.

Do you have a future if electricity is re-regulated?

That doesn't affect our value proposition. There's a separation between the wholesale market and the retail market that's irreversible.

The generation assets have been sold in a lot of these markets, and you can't put that genie back in the bottle.

Who buys your product?

It's evolving into two separate products. There are communications platforms for utilities to broadcast the prices to their customers, but there's really a second product that allows these enterprises to gather pricing information from all the different utilities irrespective of whether or not [the utilities are] using our particular platform.

Are you approaching utilities and energy providers only, or are you going after their large customers as well?

I think that's an excellent point. We were very concerned about making sure that we get as much customer feedback as possible on both sides of the equation. So that's exactly what we're doing right now—talking to many different large Fortune 500 commercial and industrial end-use customers, as well as utilities, to say, "Okay, what is it that you need to see to make these types of programs work." It's been very successful, we've gotten some incredible feedback, and there's a lot of interest, and we think we have a very strong sense of what we need to do in our products to make these programs successful.

Cody Graves
CEO, Automated Energy Inc.
(Consumption monitoring, with real-time metered data, for small customers)

At Automated Energy Inc., the long-term vision goes straight to the residential customer. Founded in August 1999 and now headed by a former state utility commissioner, the company's focus resides on the customers'—large or small—right to access their own data, a right that obviously has implications for the utility as well as regulators.

Automated Energy sees its products as a market enabler, as something essential to the success of deregulated markets because it allows the consumer to influence consumption. "[Automated Energy founders] Tim [Huneycutt] and Scott [Thompson] understood the need for this kind of information to be made available to the market, that markets will not operate efficiently without timely consumption data," observes chief executive officer Cody Graves.

The company's software and systems use the Internet as a vehicle to provide an electric customer with real-time access to such data as how much electricity it is using and when, enabling the customer to analyze trends and reasons, say, for usage spikes. The system also incorporates AccuWeather data into its system so that weather can be factored into analyses. Graphs and charts can be created and superimposed onto each other with the click of a mouse to compare hours, days, weeks, and months. Usage at individual buildings within a college campus can be read