Opportunities for innovation in the energy sector have never been greater.
The changes the sector is undergoing with energy decentralisation and the ability of consumers to manage and automate their environment is opening up new prospects, especially for new entrants unconstrained by the day to day operations of a utility business.
As such, innovation has become a topical feature at events, as for example it has been for the past few years and will continue to be this year at European Utility Week. The aim is two-fold – to give such innovation a platform but also to build partnerships within the industry.
For foresightful utilities that expect their traditional energy supply model to come under threat, innovation is very much top of mind. There are numerous examples of utilities supporting and even acquiring new entrants with innovative products and services.
Free Electrons to accelerate startups
Perhaps one of the most significant of the innovation initiatives, certainly the most international, is named Free Electrons, which was launched earlier in January this year.
It involves eight major utilities, which have created a global accelerator programme for innovative energy-related startups.
These are AusNet Services and Origin Energy from Australia, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Electricity Supply Board of Ireland, Energias de Portugal, innogy from Germany, Singapore Power and Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Alongside them is a network of energy organisations worldwide, currently numbering 50.
The aim of the programme is to enable startups to further refine their products and services, with the potential of testing, developing and offering them into a global customer base of 73 million.
The utilities will offer expertise, resources and access to their respective customer bases in exchange for investment and partnership opportunities.
Indicative of the interest in the programme, the first announcement for participation resulted in 450 applications across 51 countries – and from these 12 startups have been selected.
So who are these companies at the pinnacle of innovation?
Innovative energy startups
In the smart grid category, three companies were selected.
DEPsys, based in Switzerland, has developed an optimisation platform for measuring, monitoring and controlling the low voltage grid for efficient integration of renewable energy sources at decentralised injection points.
Bengaluru, India-based DataGlen Technologies is focussed on asset management with an IoT platform with multiple business applications.
GreenCom Networks from Munich, Germany and Sophia-Antipolis, France, has developed a platform on which applications such as virtual power plants, load management, storage control and customer engagement are delivered as a service.
In the E-Mobility category, there is one company, Driivz. Based in California and Tel Aviv, Driivz offers an electric vehicle charging management software platform and manages major charging networks in North America and Europe.
Three companies, all from the US, were selected in the clean energy category.
BeON from Cambridge, Massachusetts offers a smart lighting system with inbuilt security and backup features.
HST Solar from Los Angeles has introduced a platform for the design and development of large-scale solar energy projects.
EthosGen, headquartered in Wilkes-Glen, PA, provides on-site waste heat to power solutions.
Four companies are participating in the energy management category.
Irish company climote offers an app-driven hub for the remote control of home heating.
California-based OhmConnect is a provider of demand response services for residential consumers.
Simple Energy from Boulder, Colorado, has developed a platform to engage consumers in their energy usage through individual and community insights and rewards.
London-headquartered Tempus Energy has built a technology platform for the future utility encompassing aspects such as market forecasting and flexibility optimisation.
In the cybersecurity category, the single participant is Aperio Systems from Haifa, Israel, which has introduced a protection solution focussed on the physical behaviour of systems.
All these companies have already made their mark in the industry and their further development will be watched with interest.
As part of the programme they also will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in local ecosystems delivered through three uniquely structured week-long modules in Silicon Valley, Lisbon, Dublin and Singapore.