Grid Load Monitoring, Fault Detection and Isolation Drives 3M Investment in Smarter Energy

3M equity stake in Toronto-based Smart Energy Instruments follows market need for next generation measurement and control.
Published: Fri 12 Sep 2014

The latest deal between 3M New Ventures, the corporate venture arm of 3M, and Smart Energy Investments (SEI) is set to further accelerate SEI’s efforts in developing electronic chipsets with high-precision, real-time monitoring capabilities for smart grids, as well as give 3M a bigger presence in the energy sector.

The investment from 3M New Ventures comes as several existing stakeholders also bolstered their equity in SEI, including Venturelink Funds, ArcTern Ventures and the Ontario Capital Growth Corp. Together, the financing round, led by 3M New Ventures, totaled US$5 million.

Utility market primed for smart grid

SEI CEO Jeff Dionne says, “We’ve hit several key milestones in our company’s growth, and the utility market is now primed to take full advantage of our smart grid technologies. We see 3M as an important strategic partner to jointly develop and commercialize innovative solutions for utilities and electrical equipment manufacturers.”

SEI’s technology platform is based on a core set of chips with unprecedented measurement precision and low-power consumption that can be integrated into today’s intelligent electronic devices. It gives equipment manufacturers and utilities a major competitive edge in functions such as grid load monitoring, fault detection and isolation.

“SEI’s unique technology will strengthen 3M’s leadership in the energy sector and enable the development of ubiquitous infrastructure sensing and monitoring solutions,” added Stefan Gabriel, president of 3M New Ventures.

Renewable energy drives the need for accurate monitoring

Aging grid infrastructures and the surge in renewable energy sources – particularly solar and wind – are driving the need for more precise monitoring devices. 3M’s Electronics and Energy Business Group is building new platforms for greater relevance to the energy sector, and SEI’s chips will be a key part of 3M’s portfolio for grid automation.

“We are impressed with SEI’s forward-thinking approach to the utility marketplace,” said Robert Visser, vice president of research & development of 3M’s Electronics and Energy Business Group. “We now have the opportunity to support a new standard for multi-dimensional electrical measurements in the utility industry.”

According to Navigant Research, cumulative worldwide electric utility spending on asset management and condition monitoring systems will total close to US$50 billion from 2014 to 2023. [Engerati-Asset Management Can Improve Your Bottom Line – A Case Study.]

Limited budgets, increasing priorities and strict regulatory regimes are forcing utilities to make do with what they have. Utilities have to decide where to invest their money in order to attain the best return on investment. Asset management and condition monitoring systems will help utilities to do just that. [Engerati-Asset Management-A Cradle to Grave Concept.]