Is there value in pure intermediation? Why? Examine, for example, the business model of EnerNOC, one of the pioneers of “smart” electric grids.

For applications that run on smart grids, it is still early days. EnerNOC gives a hint of things to come. The speciality of this American firm, whose share price has more than quadrupled in the past 12 months despite the crisis, is demand response. It promises utilities to supply them if they need additional power and is paid as if it were keeping physical plants ready. In fact it has agreements with many firms, which it pays for the privilege of being allowed to shut down their non-essential gear if need be, thus freeing up capacity. As of June 2,400 customers, from steel plants to grocery stores, had signed up. They represent 3,150MW, the output of about 30 peak-power plants. But EnerNOC also wants to use the equipment it has installed and the data it collects to offer something called “continuous commissioning”: making sure that big buildings, for instance, do not start to waste energy (“Wiser Wires,” The Economist, October 10, 2010, p. 70).

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