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Silver Spring Raises $100M Even as Smart Meter Complaints Rise

What happens when you try to install a new technology in millions of locations within a very short period of time? It's not a task that has been attempted many times in the past; usually, new technologies go through years of high prices and testing before they hit the mainstream.

Smart meters are in the process of becoming a case study for the entire green revolution, though. The idea behind forcefully pushing them is that we need to quickly capture the energy savings that smart meters may provide, once they're thoroughly integrated in homes and businesses. Note the "may" -- nobody is quite sure how the plan will turn out.

For industries involved, though, there are already early winners and losers. Take Silver Spring Networks, a smart meter startup that started to get serious attention last year. Now it has attracted $100 million in a funding round. The company tells the WSJ it had to turn away investors, a state possibly caused by an $800 million order backlog.

If a startup is the winner, who are the losers? They may be the utilities who are caught between relatively untested young companies and outside expectations for smart meters. A customer scuffle with PG&E we previously mentioned is metastasizing, according to the New York Times:

In response to a wave of complaints from the Bakersfield area in the Central Valley, Pacific Gas & Electric has been placing full-page advertisements in newspapers in the area promising benefits from the new meters. It says customers will save money not only by paying rates based on hourly fluctuations in the wholesale market, but also eventually by displaying real-time rates...

But people in other parts of the country are also wary of the meter switch. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut frets that consumers could be shouldering the costs of the transition long before they realized the savings.

PG&E is actively fighting allegations from its customers that their rates suddenly double or triple with new smart meters, so the names of any other companies involved (like Silver Springs) aren't likely to emerge and become damaging.

But there could be other problems in the works. Greentech Media points out that some of Silver Springs' competitors say that the mesh network the company employs could fail under heavy load. That's obviously a self-interested statement, coming from opponents, but their point that the technology isn't well-proven at scale is nevertheless valid.

Barring any catastrophes in the near future, Silver Springs does look ever more likely to be an IPO candidate, so keep an eye on the company.

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