The “help wanted” sign is out at Sensus offices.

The landing of its largest contract to date for smart metering technology last week means Raleigh-based Sensus will be expanding its global work force, CEO Peter Mainz tells WRALTechWire.

The company also has a new chairman – a former CEO of Sears and an ex-IBMer – to help plot the company’s growth.

Lou D’Ambrosio, a board member at Sensus for the past three years, replaced Jonathan Boucher, the company announced Monday in a change that had been planned, Mainz says. Boucher remains on the board.

Sensus employees couldn;t be blamed if they popped a few champagne corks last week when the company learned it had won a massive smart metering contract in the United Kingdom. The government wants smart meters for electricity and gas installed at millions of homes and small businesses by 2020.

The contract is huge in terms of money  - $1 billion – and in numbers of “endpoints” for Sensus technology up to 17 million. 

Sensus will be working with Arqiva, a communications firm, providing its FlexNet communications network technology tom link the meters over a secure wireless network.

Thus the hiring.

Mainz said some 300 jobs will be spread among companies involved in the project.

“Sensus is always looking for great candidates that will help drive results,” Mainz says when asked about additional jobs. “This [contract] selection will generate an estimated 300 new jobs. Sensus will recruit more employees for positions in engineering, project management and customer service.”

The firm already employs 325 people in Raleigh at its headquarters and at a research and development office in Morrisville. Its U.S. headcount numbers 1,400, and worldwide the toal employee number has risen to 3,500, Mainz notes.

WRALTechWire asked Mainz about the U.K. contract and what it means to his firm as well as U.K. consumers.

  • Please talk about why the UK contract is so important to Sensus.

Sensus is a global leader in providing smart grid solutions with 16 million endpoints deployed. This decision is the latest endorsement of Sensus as a global technology leader. The selection validates that the Sensus long-range radio technology has no borders. It is flexible and interoperable with global communication infrastructure models. The partnership with Arqiva is an example of Sensus interoperability and a business model for future global partnerships. Sensus is a global leader in smart grid technology that offers financial benefits for utilities and consumers and supports environmental initiatives to lower emissions, save electricity and conserve water.

With successful global business, Sensus is uniquely qualified to bring proven communication network technology to a project of this magnitude and future projects around the world.

  • How does it benefit consumers?

The selection validates Sensus as a global leader in smart grid technologies but in the end, the real winners are the citizens of Great Britain. The delivery of accurate and timely information about their energy use will enable them to reduce consumption and therefore energy costs as well as lower CO2 emissions. This selection also improves operational efficiency for the utility.

  • Isn’t this the largest contract – at least potentially – to date for Sensus with a value of some $1 billion?

The value of the contract is correct and it is for all the consortium partners including Arqiva and Detica. The size (16-17 million endpoints) is about four times as large as our biggest US utility deployment to date.

  • What does the change in Chairman mean for Sensus? Had this been planned? What does new leadership mean for the company?

Yes, it was planned. Lou D’Ambrosio stated, “I am excited to become more deeply engaged with Sensus and the team. Sensus is a true leader in smart grid and clean technology solutions across electric, water and gas—yielding cost savings and environmental benefits to utilities and their customers.”

  • What’s the landscape now for smart grid and smart utility contracts? Is demand growing, and if so what are the drivers?

This smart metering project sets the stage for similar projects worldwide to reduce energy consumption and improve operational efficiency and customer service. More than 475 electric, gas and water utilities have adopted Sensus advanced metering technologies, and that number will continue to grow as infrastructures age and utilities, consumers and governments look for ways to conserve energy and water. The largest power distributor in Brazil, for example, recently announced that it is implementing a smart grid to curb electricity theft and increase efficiency.

(Note: This story has been updated to clarify hiring Sensus plans as part of the project.)