National Grid launches venture capital arm with DER, other investments
- National Grid announced Thursday morning the launch of a new venture capital and innovation group based in Silicon Valley, calling it the industry's first "innovation, incubation, investment and business development unit."
- Through National Grid Partners (NGP), the company has already funded investments in AutoGrid, ClimaCell, Leap, Omnidian and Sitetracker, to provide advanced and efficient energy and technology solutions.
- In its announcement, NGP said its initial round of funding reflects the group's investment focus, "ensuring that consumers enjoy a more seamless, reliable, efficient and cleaner energy experience." The operation will be led by Lisa Lambert, National Grid's chief technology and innovation officer and senior vice president of NGP.
As the energy sector moves beyond thermal generation toward technological solutions enabling greater integration of renewables, utilities have concluded that investing in research and development will be key to their continued success. But in a sector where change is slow, the National Grid announcement may point to a shift in dynamics.
Utilities' investment in research and development as a percentage of revenues has historically been lower than tech companies, Navigant Principal Research Analyst Stuart Ravens told Utility Dive this summer. "Up until recently, it's been a relatively sleepy industry — there wasn't much call for innovation, and the way utilities are rewarded, it's usually a good idea to let someone else be the first mover," he said.
But that may be changing. NGP's "launch partners" represent an investment in the energy systems of the future.
AutoGrid, a familiar name in the utility sector, leverages big data to create real-time actionable energy information. National Grid is working to "exceed the expectations of its customers," and the company's solutions will help to deliver more clean and affordable energy, said AutoGrid CEO Amit Narayan in a statement.
ClimaCell is a "next-generation weather forecasting company;" Leap is a marketplace for distributed energy resources; Omnidian provides comprehensive protection plans for investments in residential and commercial solar energy system; and Sitetracker is a services platform aimed at enabling investors in critical infrastructure industries to optimize their assets' lifecycle.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter