A View from Jessica Leber
Headed into an IPO, a Smart Grid Company Struggles for Profit
After its IPO on Wednesday, Silver Spring Networks will try to become profitable by helping utilities manage energy demand.
One of the oldest smart grid technology companies, Silver Spring Networks, is set to go public this week after putting off its IPO for almost two years (see “The 50 Most Innovative Companies: 2011”), even as other cleantech companies continue to struggle on public markets.
Silver Spring Networks provides smart meter networking equipment and services to some of the largest U.S. utilities. Though it has had strong sales, it has never posted a profit since it was founded in 2002. Its revenues actually declined from 2011 to 2012, from $237 to $197 million. Some of that struggle has been because smart meter adoption has slowed, an almost inevitable outcome since the major boost the sector received from the U.S. federal stimulus in 2009. In addition to that, according to financial filings, negative publicity, consumer opposition, and regulatory investigations have also hurt smart-grid related sales.
Still, a securely networked grid is viewed to be crucial to the large-scale adoption of electric cars, solar and wind power electricity, and demand-response energy efficiency programs that encourage people to turn their ACs down in the middle of a hot summer day, for example, by showing them pricing information. One way Silver Spring Networks will look to grow is by selling more software and services in these so-called advanced metering areas, because they provide recurring revenue (see “Silver Spring Networks Liberates Smart Meter Data”). Doing so successfully could not only be good for Silver Spring Networks’ current and future investors, but could help boost the broader clean energy market as well.