- The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is accepting applications from startup companies focused on clean energy solutions, the institute announced Wednesday.
- EPRI's Incubatenergy Labs will accept bids until Jan. 17, 2020, to pitch proposals to a group of 10 utilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, in April. American Electric Power (AEP), Ameren and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will host the selected projects as pilot programs.
- EPRI completed selection of a first round of projects and demonstrations earlier this year under the title "IlluminationLAB," which was a collaborative effort with AEP and other utilities. More than 100 companies submitted applications.
"Startups always struggle," Erik Steeb, who leads Incubatenergy for EPRI, told Utility Dive.
"They have to do demonstration after demonstration in the market to get traction," he said. And even if they show a product works, "that doesn't necessarily convey to other utilities."
Incubatenergy aims to address some of those challenges by connecting startups with utilities to focus on challenges common among electric power utilities. While there are no size requirements for companies applying, Steeb said there is an expectation companies are "demonstration-ready."
"They're probably Series A, maybe getting ready for Series B types of companies," he said, referring to early financing rounds. "They have some market traction and technology validation, and they're ready to go demonstrate in a real world environment."
Of the 10 participating utilities, only AEP, TVA and Ameren will formally host projects. The other utilities involved are Consolidated Edison, Nebraska Public Power District, New York Power Authority, Portland General Electric, Southern California Edison, Salt River Project and Xcel Energy.
Proposals will address six areas: customer engagement, digitalization, distributed energy resource integration, workforce issues, electric mobility, and customer and community resilience. Applications will also be accepted in an "open category for solutions that fall outside of these topic areas," EPRI said in its announcement.
Utilities do not typically need regulatory approval to take on the projects due to their small size and scope relative to other pilots, Steeb said. Utilities are typically contributing $25,000 to $200,000 and projects run for 12 weeks.
Right now, Incubatenergy Labs is focused on outreach for the second round of projects, Steeb said. The first round drew in 132 applications, which led to 16 pitches and six selected projects that included infrastructure monitoring, fleet electrification and solar comparison solutions. Steeb said he expects similar numbers this time.
Projects in the second round will run from May to September 2020.