Acquisition by Honeywell has energy-management tech firm taking space, hiring

[caption id="attachment_24769" align="alignright" width="216" caption="Akuacom technology automatically adjusts energy on the stressed grid during peak hours."][/caption]

SAN RAFAEL – Akuacom, a Marin-based pioneer in automated grid-relieving technology, is preparing for “aggressive growth” in the wake of its acquisition by Honeywell.

Akuacom, working with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, developed a software suite that automatically adjusts energy consumption in large commercial and industrial buildings to reduce load during hours of peak use, helping avoid brownouts and blackouts.

Akuacom Inc. was picked up by avionics and control systems giant Honeywell late this spring as part of its strategy to supply utilities and independent system operators across the U.S. with automated Demand Response technology and services.

Last year, Honeywell was awarded $11.4 million from the Department of Energy for grid modernization, one of several grants made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Honeywell has long worked with utilities to reduce peak load and also has a presence in more than 10 million commercial buildings and thousands of industrial plants. Akuacom’s technology will bridge the two sets of customers.

“It’s the ideal partner to bring scale to Akuacom’s technology,” said company CEO Clay Collier.

Already, 20-employee Akuacom has doubled its space on Lincoln Avenue in San Rafael and has plans to double its staff.

According to Mr. Collier, there are many parts of Honeywell where the Akuacom technology can be deployed.

“We’d like to bring the building owners’ side into play,” he said.

Honeywell already has the best-selling Demand Response thermostat on the market, giving utilities combined control of more than 3 gigawatts of peak load, the equivalent to the generation capacity of approximately 20 gas-fired peaking plants.

The use of those plants, hugely expensive to operate and a strain on the aging electrical grid, could be largely avoided with load-shedding capability, according to Mr. Collier.

Currently, Akuacom’s customers are utilities and ISOs. PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric use the technology, as do utilities in Seattle and Tallahassee, Fla.

In turn, the utilities offer the system to their customers as a way to save money and reduce energy consumption.

“We would like to see it  come into wide use across the country,” said PG&E project manager Albert Chiu.

PG&E worked with Akuacom and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab to develop the system and also to draft an open communication standard, OpenADR, to use as the industry grows.

The utility was the first to deploy the system commercially in 2007. It has about 60 commercial and industrial customers with a total of 200 accounts, and that number is growing, said Mr. Chiu.

“We’re getting lots of inquiries from other utilities, and we’ve been doing national presentations to demonstrate the technology,” he said.

California is clearly the pioneer in energy-reduction technology.

“Energy use goes up 3 percent to 4 percent each year in every other state. Per capita use in California has been flat for the last 30 years,” said Mr. Collier.

He and his team will remain in place following the acquisition and retain the Akuacom name.

For more information, visit www.akuacom.com.