Arrow-right Camera


Itron, Partners Plan Joint Venture New Company Prepares To Sell Cost-Cutting Services To Utility Industry

Itron Inc., Puget Sound Power & Light Co. and a California maker of wireless information systems have agreed to form a new company that would sell cost-cutting services to the utility industry.

Still in the planning stages, the as-yet unnamed venture would combine technologies developed by Itron and San Jose-based Metricom Inc. that gather information from utility meters using handheld, mobile or stationary equipment arrayed in a network.

For example, said Puget spokesman Earl Dunn, a new system could be used to read meters several times a day, making it possible to set rate schedules that would encourage electricity use during nonpeak hours.

Puget President Rich Sonstelie said customers want more pricing options, and efficient delivery is one way of cutting electricity costs.

Dunn noted Puget has been working with Washington Natural Gas Co. on a joint meterreading effort on Mercer Island since last June.

The project has cut the hours required to read electricity and gas meters of the island’s 10,000 residents by one-third, he said.

Dunn said the island will be one of three likely sites where the new company will establish trial networks for testing the combined technologies.

Officials are still discussing the types of services the new company could offer, he added.

Itron Vice President Rob Neilson said that, beside contributing technology, the Spokane Valley company will help develop the business and marketing plan for the new company, which will likely be based in the Seattle area.

Itron will also make an investment in the company, but the ownership split has not yet been decided, he said.

O’Neill & Co., a Seattle consultant, is overseeing the launch of the joint venture.