Next: The wattcom boom

I was at a meeting about three years ago where state energy commissioners and power plant developers were debating new market rules, some to take effect almost immediately, others five years out. A wise commissioner looked around the room and said something like: “All that matters are the immediate rules because everything will be different in five years. In fact, most of you won’t be working for the same company you are today.” ::continue::

Lo and behold, he was right. When I think of the people at the meeting, most are already elsewhere – and only three years have gone by. Some of the companies they represented, major players in the fossil fuel arena, are struggling for survival.  And where is the commissioner who made the statement? He now works for a wind energy developer.

Who will be the new, big market entrants in the next five years?  Here is a clue: More and more energy announcements that come across my desk are not from energy companies. They are from IT companies: Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM.::continue::

This makes sense given that a necessary marriage between IT and energy must occur for the development of the smart grid and user-friendly energy efficiency devices. Clearly, the IT world sees opportunity in energy.

Farah Saeed, a senior consultant for Frost & Sullivan, put it this way: “In the coming years, competition expects to intensify as non-energy related IT focused companies expand their presence in the utility sector. Companies such as IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and HP acknowledge the fact that Internet-enabled grid applications present opportunities to serve the utility market. Networks developed to support AMI [advanced metering infrastructure] technologies such as home area networking (HAN) and backhaul networks, as well as enterprise software to support asset management, invites the expertise of IT technology pioneers.”

I’m predicting a “wattcom” boom. Okay, maybe the name is corny. But catch up with me in five years – probably less. Let’s see who’s in the room.

See more of Elisa Wood’s writing on energy at



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Elisa Wood is a long-time energy writer whose work appears in many of the industry's top magazines and newsletters, among them Renewable Energy World and Platts. She serves as chief editor of Her work has been picked up by the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal online, Utne, USA Today and several other sites. She is author of the report "Think Microgrid: A Guide for Policymakers, Regulators and End Users." See more of her work at

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