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Incubatenergy Group in Chicago, Credit: EPRI

photo of Beth Hartman

August 25, 2017
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The third annual Incubatenergy Network meeting took place in Chicago last week, with over 130 clean energy innovators including entrepreneurs, incubator leaders, utility technology executives, corporate partners, investors, lab researchers, government stakeholders, and more. Following a keynote presentation from Amy Francetic, Senior VP of New Ventures and Corporate Affairs at Invenergy, the group heard from over a dozen entrepreneurs presenting solutions in solar, storage, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, and more.

In her keynote, Amy described how rapidly falling costs are making renewable energy more competitive than ever, highlighting how clean energy purchases from large corporate and institutional clients are helping speed the transition to a more sustainable economy. She also discussed how the increasingly fast growth of data analytics and distributed assets are making the energy industry more compelling for venture capital and other investment models, mentioning companies like Enbala, Geli and SparkCognition as examples of opportunities for rapid growth.

SparkCognition then joined a dozen other energy companies to present their solutions to the group, explaining how predictive analytics and a focus on cybersecurity can help prevent damage to the energy system before it even occurs. The first half of presentation also included:

• Highview Power Systems, making large-scale energy storage solutions for utility and distributed power systems using liquid air as the storage medium

• EP Tender, an on-demand range extending service for electric vehicles, using mobile energy modules attached occasionally to the EV

• Switched Source, which controls energy supply in the last mile of electricity delivery through leveraging the existing distribution infrastructure

• Agentis Energy, an energy analytics platform for utility business customers to better understand their energy use, billing data, and more

• Heila Technologies, which simplifies the installation and operation of microgrids with technology to enable the integration of disparate assets

Following a short intermission, the second half of presentations kicked off with Tagup describing a system to monitor ongoing transformer health with a patent-pending analytics platform that can reduce unplanned downtime on equipment, such as power transformers, by as much as 70%. The group also heard from: • Ferraris Power, which develops electromagnetic energy harvesting solutions for utility grade deployment

• Yotta Solar, which makes cost effective solar and solar energy storage hardware and software

• CN2 Technologies, which makes a cloud-hosted platform that allows enterprises to quickly and easily create compelling Mixed Reality applications for sales, service and training, and two-way, remote assistance

• Momit, which provides utilities with customer engagement tools to control consumption based on established energy budgets

• Nnergix, which provides software as a tool that integrates and displays key information from the electricity market and satellite weather data, in particular allowing the forecast of short-term availability of solar and wind power production

Along with these short presentations, OPConnect sent a quick video highlighting their electric vehicle charging solution, and both GoElectric and SunAmp presented in more detail to a smaller utility audience the following day. The first day concluded with introductions from newer energy incubation and acceleration programs such as Free Electrons, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ron Schoff of EPRI and featuring Ilan Gur of Cyclotron Road, Matthew Crosby of Panasonic, Chico Hunter of SRP and Hilary Flynn from National Grid. The group then adjourned to a reception at the Midway Club in the Gleacher Center, overlooking the Chicago River.

During the second day, the group discussed incubator business and revenue models, impact metrics, and investment trends, along with highlighting upcoming clean energy meetings both within the U.S. and around the world. After lunch, everyone enjoyed a tour of the Shedd Aquarium solar-storage microgrid facility, followed by another reception back at the Intercontinental hotel. We look forward to seeing everyone again soon at other upcoming events this fall such as the VERGE conference in Santa Clara, California, BEST FEST in Portland, Oregon, and more.

Infographic of impacts of incubator networks

July 6, 2017

Clean energy innovations and breakthroughs may come from anywhere in the world—and the impact of individual ideas and technologies can be multiplied through global deployment. Through stronger international connections, US-based clean energy entrepreneurs and companies can gain access to additional support systems, with specific relevance to new markets.

Conversely, entrepreneurs looking to enter US markets can find smoother pathways to entry by working with leading incubators based in different regions around the country. Helping to provide support for innovative ideas all around the world enhances the development of clean energy solutions needed everywhere to address the challenges of the rapidly evolving global energy system.

Exploring connections between energy innovators in the US and many other countries in Europe, Asia and beyond is the focus of our latest Incubatenergy report, which demonstrates how these increasingly strong international relationships help to support entrepreneurs all over the world. Energy challenges are global in scope and require solutions to be implemented over all scales. International collaborations and partnerships are essential to broad diffusion and adoption of clean energy innovations that may be created by inventors and startups located anywhere in the world.

The report begins with a review of the strong clean energy innovation ecosystem in the US followed by an exploration of groups working to support energy entrepreneurs organized into three main regions of the world: Europe and the Middle East, Asia and Australia, and Africa and Latin America. Case study examples of connections between US incubators and international groups are highlighted throughout.

For example, InnoEnergy is the leading clean energy accelerator program in Europe, with offices in eight European nations and operations in more than 25 countries. Supported business ventures are selling products and services all around Europe and in India, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador, US, Morocco, Senegal, Turkey and elsewhere.

Since starting operations in 2011, InnoEnergy has supported 171 early-stage ventures and created 95 companies, reducing time to commercialization to an average of 12 months. In the last 3 years, portfolio ventures were able to raise 65 million euros from private and public investors, and they have created around 1200 jobs. One success story, Smartive, uses artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data mining algorithms for wind turbine performance monitoring and optimization. Headquartered in Barcelona, the company is exploring US wind power markets in collaboration with leading incubators.

Looking towards examples in Asia, several Incubatenergy members based on the US west coast have developed a strong focus on the geographically proximate Pacific Rim as part of their international strategies. In one example, both the Elemental Excelerator in Hawaii and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubators helped send portfolio companies to BIXPO 2016, a major exposition of electric power industry technology hosted by KEPCO, the largest electric utility in South Korea. BIXPO invitations for BK Litec, Shifted Energy, and other companies were coordinated through EPRI’s international contacts.

Finally in Africa and beyond, The World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program is a $65 million initiative focused on catalyzing startup and sector growth in developing countries by supporting the clean technology entrepreneurship ecosystem. It has launched seven Climate Innovation Centers (CIC) around the world with funding from the UK, Norway, Denmark, Australia, and the Netherlands. CIC groups connected with the Incubatenergy Network during the 2016 ARPA-E Innovation Summit, leading to an exchange of best practices for helping inform the development of these innovation centers. To date, the World Bank program has provided support for more than 300 firms, and the supported firms have raised more than $9 million in private financing.

Download the full report for additional details on how growing connections between the clean energy innovation ecosystem in the US with similar efforts around the world are helping to support entrepreneurs everywhere in more rapidly developing solutions to transform our energy system.

photo of the ARPA-E Innovation Summit
photo of Beth Hartman

March 14, 2017
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

EPRI hosted the third annual Incubatenergy Network spring meeting immediately following the conclusion of the ARPA-E Innovation Summit, the premier clean energy technology showcase event supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). With keynote speakers including Professor Jeffery Sachs of Columbia University, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, and several others, the Summit also featured pitch presentations, discussion panels, and networking sessions, along with the technology showcase.

At the EPRI booth in the showcase, several Incubatenergy Network members joined us to display the latest details on technologies they support. One company supported by the Clean Energy Trust in Chicago, Igor, sent a demonstration of their lighting technology while several other incubators brought brochures listing details of many different portfolio companies. Visitors to the booth enjoyed discussing the technologies supported by the incubators in addition to other areas of EPRI research into the global energy system.

In his opening keynote address on clean energy innovation, Senator Gardner kept his remarks fairly light, describing how research, exploration, and curiosity are fundamental aspects of our American character. He also described several of the resources for supporting clean energy innovation in his home state of Colorado, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

Professor Sachs made clear the urgency of addressing climate change, referring by name to fossil fuel companies that have attempted to create confusion over the established science of global warming. "We can just still, but barely, manage to avoid catastrophic climate change if we take immediate action to reduce global emissions," he stated, explaining that a rapid transition to an electrified global energy system supported entirely by carbon-free energy sources is essential. Energy efficiency, carbon capture, and other areas of innovation will also be critical, he added.

Along with these keynote remarks, the ARPA-E conference featured several discussions on topics such as funding models for clean energy entrepreneurs, including a panel moderated by Ben Gaddy of the Clean Energy Trust and highlighting investors like Ira Ehrenpreis of DBL Partners. Describing his firm's investment in Tesla, Ira explained how clean energy companies need to be both creative and committed not only in raising funds, but also in strategies for acquiring assets, such as how Tesla purchased an old car manufacturing facility for just pennies on the dollar.

Following the main ARPA-E event, Incubatenergy Network members met to discuss strategy for how the group will continue to be supported by EPRI going forward, beyond the three-year DOE funding period for the project. As EPRI utility members have found great value in connecting with the entrepreneurs supported by incubators in the network, the company is committed to maintaining this engagement.

The meeting also included a review of significant accomplishments from members of the network over the past year as well presentations from incubators such as 1776 in D.C. and Chain Reaction Innovations from Argonne National Laboratory. Members of the network mentioned several companies that have had success in fundraising, partnerships, and other achievements over the past year. For example, Atom Power raised money from Siemens, Go Electric has worked with several incubators in the network, and SPLT has won several pitch competitions, most recently taking the win as top transportation startup at the SXSW accelerator pitch event this month.

The group then heard a high-level overview from the DOE about a peer review meeting that occurred late last year. This meeting was part of evaluation efforts for projects like the Incubatenergy Network funded by the National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy. The peer review report is expected to be finalized this summer with feedback useful to the Network.

Finally, the day wrapped with a reverse pitch panel event from utilities including ConEd, Entergy, NYPA, SRP, Southern Company, and SCE about technology innovation challenge needs ranging from drones to electric vehicle charging solutions. Other solutions desired included solar farm lawn maintenance, additive manufacturing and 3D printing, and virtual reality assisted training. This kind of engagement is a prime example of how the Incubatenergy Network project has added significant value to the clean energy innovation ecosystem in the United States overall by building stronger connections between incubators as well as helping support engagement between entrepreneurs and utilities.

Learn more about how the Incubatenergy Network provides resources to support entrepreneurs in this short video created by the DOE.

Graphic of incubator indicators
photo of Beth Hartman

November 10, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The journey that clean energy entrepreneurs undertake is long and challenging, but with support from resources around the country including universities, labs, and incubators, the path to success can become clearer. Our third Incubatenergy Network whitepaper highlights how stronger national coordination of these resources can help more effectively support clean energy entrepreneurs across all stages of the journey, from research and development to commercialization and deployment.

While individual clean energy innovation pathways are varied, this white paper identifies common touchstones toward commercialization: Successful entrepreneurs often receive research support from universities and laboratories, development support from incubators and accelerators, and deployment support through funding sources and corporate partnerships.

Support networks are in place in many areas around the United States to help guide entrepreneurs along their paths to success. Clean energy incubators often serve as hubs for strong regional innovation ecosystems encompassing diverse roles and participants. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and other organizations foster and support innovation across the country. Connections made through the Incubatenergy Network are helping these groups strengthen interregional collaboration and better coordinate national resources for the benefit of the entrepreneurial community.

Research

Across the country, there are many resources for entrepreneurs engaged in exploratory research and proof-of-concept testing focusing on clean energy technologies, services, and business strategies. DOE’s Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot is one example of how emerging businesses can access the expertise and unique capabilities at the national labs, free of charge. This new program provides vouchers up to $300,000 for eligible businesses and startups to “spend” in speeding development of clean energy technologies through access to lab facilities and researchers. The first two SBV rounds support 76 companies with voucher awards totaling about $15 million.

Increasingly, universities and national labs are fostering innovation within the communities they bring together and serve. Most leading U.S. clean energy incubators are hosted by or have strong connections with universities. DOE’s Cleantech University Prize (UP) program has identified eight leading regional universities and supporting organizations that help earlier-stage clean energy companies led by students to further develop their technology, business strategy, and more.

Development

As innovations transition into the development phase, there are several models for providing incubation support to clean energy entrepreneurs. Figure 4 in the report identifies some of the participants in the Incubatenergy Network that support tech transfer after proof of concept is achieved. These groups provide validation testing and other technical and business services falling into four main categories: lab + incubation, physical incubators, challenges, and pilot project demonstrations.

Deployment

The transition from development to deployment is not sharp, fast, or easy for clean energy innovations, creating the need for extensive tech transfer support during pilot demonstration and then scale-up. Fundraising is critical, with a variety of different sources spanning government programs and foundations and including angel investors, VC, and project finance. A recent MIT Energy Initiative report examined why the VC model has not worked well in the clean energy industry, where scaling innovations and displacing existing technologies takes time, can be expensive, and offers an unfavorable risk-reward profile for many traditional sources of capital.

Recent announcements of increased long-term funding by governments and global philanthropy and technology leaders are targeted at fostering, accelerating, scaling, and quickly deploying clean energy solutions. Prominent examples include Mission Innovation, which engages the United States, China, and many other countries, and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, co-chaired by Bill Gates. Strong and sustained policy commitments and pricing signals also are essential for fostering market transformation, increasing competitiveness, and further reducing cost barriers to deployment of clean energy innovations.

Conclusion

Successful clean energy entrepreneurs follow many different paths and, often, an iterative process as their innovative solutions journey through the research, development, and deployment phases. Typically, tech transfer support is provided by diverse organizations—starting with universities and labs, then on to incubators, accelerators, public-private funding sources, corporate partnerships, and others.

Since its launch in early 2015, the Incubatenergy Network has demonstrated that bringing together leading incubators, building on support networks existing around the country, and expanding collaboration among regional and national stakeholders can help strengthen the U.S. clean energy innovation ecosystem. Partnering with incubators and support networks around the world—and creating opportunities for U.S. entrepreneurs to access these resources—promises similar benefits.

Read more in the full report, available now for public download!

photo of Beth Hartman

October 19, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

With a closing keynote from Bill Nye, showcase presentations from a variety of innovative entrepreneurs, and plenty of great receptions, SXSW Eco was another huge success this year! Along with these highlights, there were several fascinating sessions including the Greentech Media Energy Gang Live, Funny or Die discussing climate change, Beyond VC focusing on alternative financing models for clean energy startups, National Resources for Startups and a Meet Your Accelerator panel with members of the Incubatenergy Network, and a conversation about the future grid with EPRI, SCE, and SolarCity. Check out more on these panels and others below, or scroll through details in real time from our Twitter coverage!

The keynote from Bill Nye was certainly one of the main highlights of the event, as he covered everything from climate change deniers to space exploration with both comedic flare and a focus on the facts. Starting off, he acknowledged that when it comes to climate change, “people may be tempted to run around in circles screaming – but this has been proven to be ineffective.” Far more effective, and important, he explained, is a strong focus on clean energy innovation and deployment, and he mentioned the Stanford Solutions Project as a model outlining what needs to be done.

He also argued that in addition to renewable energy, people all over the world must have access to clean water and free information in order to build a successful global society. Finally, he concluded with a focus on the importance of space exploration as a way to keep the human spirit of discovery and optimism strong for the future. Complimenting this inspiring closing keynote was an opening keynote from Google’s Kate Brandt, focused on how technology can reduce climate impacts.

The startup showcase presentations featured a variety of entrepreneurs from different areas of focus, including energy, food and agriculture. On the energy showcase, the winners were tied between SkyCool Systems and XStream Trucking, two companies that also presented at the Cleantech University Prize finals this year. In food and agriculture, GroBioplastics received the Audience Choice Award for overall most innovative company presenting at SXSW Eco this year, for a solution using the waste product from paper production, lignin, to make biodegradable plastics for farming.

Another interesting solution presented in the food and agriculture category was called Bitwater Farms, which grows crickets for feeding chickens, a solution predicted to be increasingly effective in a warming world impacted by climate change. Finally, Farm From a Box was described as the “Swiss Army Knife” of farms, offering a shipping container complete with solar power, drip irrigation, wifi, and other supplies needs to start a farm feeding 150 people, and Land Life Company sells trees in a cocoon system that only need 10 gallons of water to grow. Other startup showcase categories at the event included water, social impact, recycling, and internet of things.

The Greentech Media Energy Gang Live discussion focused on the transition from coal to renewables, autonomous electric vehicles, and other topics as questions from the SXSW Eco audience came in live. When it comes to transitioning jobs from coal to renewable energy, a healthy debate broke out between Jigar Shah and Katherine Hamilton about the need for moving people out of areas in the country that have been suffering from the loss of coal jobs. Hamilton argued in favor of retraining people where they already live, while Shah pointed out that this type of retraining program has been proven ineffective in the past, and stated that it would be more logical for people to simply move to another area of the country with plentiful jobs in clean energy. Concluding the discussion with an interesting but little known fact, Shah pointed out that solar panels are now cheaper to install than new windows.

In a standing-room-only session called “Climate Change is Funny,” a speaker from Funny or Die discussed how the organization is aiming to use humor to more effectively communicate about climate change and other challenging topics such as the election. Using short, amusing videos such as the Climate Change Deniers’ Anthem or Old People Don’t Care About Climate Change, the group aims to spread the word through viral social media networks, often featuring celebrities to help further strengthen and amplify the message. For the upcoming election, the group is also producing a series of videos targeting key battleground states as deadlines approach for voter registration.

Finally, a series of sessions focused on the electric grid and opportunities for clean energy entrepreneurship in the industry, including Beyond VC, Meet Your Accelerator, National Resources for Startups, and the Future Grid. In Beyond VC, Ben Gaddy from the Clean Energy Trust moderated a discussion featuring Jennifer Garson from the DOE and two investors about alternative models for financing clean energy companies, including government grants, challenges and competitions, and incubator support. For example, student business plan competitions alone have helped over 1200 teams in the last 6 years, according to Garson.

The Meet Your Accelerator panel introduced several groups in the Incubatenergy Network including the Austin Technology Incubator, Clean Energy Trust, the Cleantech Open, Greentown Labs, the Innosphere, the LA Cleantech Incubator, and others. National Resources for startups focused on programs such as Incubatenergy and those available through government labs like the Small Business Vouchers Program and LabCorps. Finally, the Future Grid panel featured a discussion between representatives from EPRI, SCE and SolarCity about how increased deployment of existing technologies will impact energy delivery systems over the coming decade. Overall, the event was a well-organized whirlwind of clean energy innovation and optimism surrounding solutions for climate change. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year and at other upcoming events such as the ARPA-E Innovation Summit!

photo of participants at LACI

Members of the Incubatenergy Network meet at LACI

photo of Beth Hartman

August 17, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The second annual Incubatenergy Network Summer Meeting on August 2-3 at the Marina del Rey Marriott and the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) brought together nearly 100 clean energy experts from incubators and utilities, as well as entrepreneurs who presented their solutions to the group. Ranging from thermal storage solutions to farms inside shipping containers, the innovative ideas highlighted by the 15 companies show tremendous potential for accelerating the transition to a more sustainable energy system.

The event kicked off with an inspiring keynote address from Commissioner Lorraine Akiba of Hawaii, focusing on how innovative clean energy solutions can help lead to a more sustainable and resilient energy grid for the future. Quoting Robert F. Kennedy, she encouraged everyone: “rather than looking at things as they are and asking why, we should look at things as they could be and ask why not.”

photo of Lorraine Akiba

Following the keynote, companies supported by incubators in the network presented a wide range of clean energy solutions. First, NETenergy described a thermal energy management system, with Viking Cold Solutions kicking off the second half of presentations with another approach to the same issue. ConnectDER also presented towards the beginning of the first half, highlighting equipment that turns the electric power meter socket on a customer’s home into a standardized interconnection point for solar and other distributed energy resources.

Also during the first half of the pitch panel, AutoGrid Systems and OpusOne Solutions presented technologies for managing data and energy on the grid, while UtilityAPI targets a solution making such data more accessible and understandable for third parties. Other interesting concepts presented during the first half were Inventev, which makes an electric hybrid truck for mobile power generation, and NBD Nano, which makes a super hydrophobic coating to improve efficiency and control the interaction with water across a wide variety of surfaces.

photo of a meeting audience

After Viking Cold Solutions kicked off the second half, we saw several innovative concepts including Local Roots, an agricultural shipping container producing the equivalent of 4 acres of farmland, and Atom Power, which makes digitally controlled, purely solid-state circuit breakers. RUTE Foundations presented the interesting concept of producing an anchored beam footing created specifically for utility scale wind turbines, while Igor makes a power-over-Ethernet intelligent LED lighting solution for commercial buildings.

Verdigris Technologies provides smart sensors backed by artificial intelligence in the cloud, while ProjectEconomics offers community solar solutions. Finally, Spirae Wave makes a platform for electric distribution operators to reliably operate systems with high penetrations of renewable energy, storage, electric vehicles, and flexible loads.

photo of people having a discussion

Several networking sessions throughout the day allowed these companies to connect with utility technology executives at the event, in addition to interacting with each other and incubator leaders from around the country. Before the evening reception, the first day also included a discussion panel focusing on trends in energy innovation and featuring Dawn Lippert from the Energy Excelerator in Hawaii, Doug Kim from Southern California Edison, Johanna Wolfson from the Department of Energy, and Sara Hochman from Energy Foundry in Chicago. Finally, the day concluded with the introduction of new network members KIC InnoEnergy from Europe and Powerhouse from San Francisco.

photo of a meeting panel

The second day of the event featured a tour of the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) La Kretz Innovation Campus, an impressive facility with 60,000 square feet of labs and prototyping areas, co-working space, meeting rooms, event centers, and more. Some of the more visually striking elements of the campus included a living wall covered in different types of plants at the entry way, as well as a sleek white smart home of the future that looked like something out of a space ship.

photo of light technology

Finally, event attendees met with LACI portfolio companies including BK Litec, Chai Energy, Entrade, Green Commuter, and Pick My Solar. Lunch was served to facilitate additional networking, and the main meeting adjourned leaving smaller breakout groups to discuss future strategy. We look forward to seeing everyone again at this event next year, as well as upcoming conferences this fall such as SXSW Eco in Austin!

photo of Beth Hartman

June 1, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

Our second best practices report is now available, and you can download the entire whitepaper here! The report highlights the great work that incubators in the network are doing to support commercialization of innovative clean energy solutions. In addition to specific case study examples of companies scaling to commercialization, the report highlights collective metrics of success for incubators in the network including:

  • Support for over 350 companies
  • Companies have raised more than $1 billion in funding
  • Collectively they generate revenues of over $330 million
  • Finally, companies employ close to 3,000 people directly

Learn more in the full report about how Incubatenergy Network members are serving as critical commercialization centers for innovative clean energy solutions, connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to more quickly scale and deploy. Collaboration and collective effort are strengthening the overall U.S. clean energy ecosystem, making the network more valuable than its individual parts. The result is a growing group of companies that have been extensively vetted, guided, and supported—increasingly by more than one network member—to collectively offer the best possible clean energy deal flow in the nation.

Promising U.S. companies are bringing to market technologies and ideas of potential global import for mitigating climate change by managing energy use, increasing efficiency, increasing renewable energy deployment, accelerating adoption of electric vehicles, promoting distributed resources, modernizing grid infrastructure, and supporting other clean energy objectives.

Check out the full report about how incubators in the network are supporting innovative clean energy companies including Accio Energy, AllCell Technologies, Altaeros, Bidgely, Chai Energy, Energy Storage Systems, Go Electric, Ibis Networks, Ideal Power, NBD Nano, Skyspecs, United Wind, and more.

For example, AllCell Technologies employs innovative phase-change materials for thermal management in batteries and other equipment. Currently, the company is participating in an EPRI research project on thermal energy storage applications. Bidgely recently raised $16 million and is participating in EPRI research on non-intrusive load monitoring. Chai Energy recently was named one of the winners of a California Demand Response Auction Mechanism award for its innovative approach to increasing grid-edge flexibility. The company uses smart meter data and a simple mobile app to help customers manage energy use.

NBD Nano makes novel materials and coatings and is currently working on a utility pilot program to test its super-hydrophobic coating for improving heat transfer efficiency in steam condensation systems. SkySpecs recently raised $3 million to support commercialization of its collision avoidance and other innovations for automated drone inspection. The founders were named to the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Manufacturing and as a result of contacts with EPRI are currently working to conduct pilot test programs with several utilities.

Read more about these companies and many others in the full report!

Lab Impact Summit at NREL
photo of Beth Hartman

May 11, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The first-ever Lab Impact Summit on May the Fourth (be with you) 2016 at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado celebrated the tremendous impact that National Labs have had on driving innovation across industries. Under the leadership of outgoing US Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson, who provided opening remarks along with moderating a panel, the labs have been working together more effectively than ever before, collaborating to provide entrepreneurs with resources in a more streamlined fashion. With over 30,000 scientists and engineers working within the national labs overall, they represent a tremendous resource for innovation.

Following opening remarks from Secretary Danielson, Ford VP of Research Ken Washington described how the company is transitioning from a traditional focus on car manufacturing to the much larger mobility market, encompassing automated vehicles, ride sharing, and more. Other large industry representatives appeared on a panel with a similar emphasis on innovation and new markets, with speakers from Duke Energy, General Motors, and Hawaiian Electric, among others. Duke Energy Director of Technology Development focused on the need to transition to clean energy and then electrify everything in order to meet the challenge of climate change, while Hawaiian Electric VP of Energy Delivery focused on the importance of renewable energy overall and the challenges of integrating rooftop solar in particular.

After lunch, former CTO of General Electric Mark Little discussed his company’s investments in innovation, and then three breakout sessions focused on the electric grid, buildings, and transportation. Finally, the event concluded with presentations from several innovative groups including CEO Ilan Gur of the Cyclotron Road incubator at Berkeley and CEO of Local Motors Jay Rogers. Attendees adjourned to network in the NREL courtyard next to the technology showcase area, which included a 3D printed hybrid electric SUV and a solar powered mobile home.

The event was coupled with graduation of the NREL led Lab-Corps program’s second cohort. Launched in 2015, this DOE funded program aims to train and empower National Laboratory researchers to better understand the market application of technologies they are developing within the laboratory. After weeks of education and customer discovery interviews, teams completed their final presentations on May 5th.

The Lab Impact Summit was a great convening of industry and key stakeholders to demonstrate the vast expertise and impact at the DOE National Laboratories.

photo of Beth Hartman

April 18, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The sixth annual Clean Energy Trust Challenge included $1 million in prizes and showcased 14 innovative clean energy technologies, ranging from a device that detects building air leaks with sound waves, to a pod that keeps food fresh longer, to a shipping container filled with solar panels, batteries and electric motorcycles. Keynotes from Jim Rogers, former CEO of Duke Energy, and Adam Lowry of Method rounded out the event, making for a very exciting day.

The largest award of half a million dollars went to Hazel Technologies for FruitBrite, a small pod that extends the shelf life of fruits, vegetables and flowers to help prevent produce waste. According to the CEO of the company, if produce waste were a country, it would be the third largest source of CO2 emissions on the planet. Preventing so much wasteful carbon emissions is an important element of global climate change mitigation.

The company winning the next largest amount of over $300,000 was Nexmatics, which makes a more efficient pump for the many industries using compressed air pneumatics to build a wide variety of products. Next, ride-sharing platform SPLT connects employees within organizations to share their commute, and won $100,000. Finally, NovoMoto, a social enterprise that aims to empower communities in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing renewable, sustainable electricity with its MicroPlant technology, won $90,000.

During his keynote address, former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers answered a question from NovoMoto and praised the company for their compelling solution addressing the critical need of clean distributed energy in the developing world. Another company with a similar solution for modular energy deployment is Current Motor, which presented a shipping container product that could be filled with a variety of supplies such as solar panels, batteries, electric motorcycles, and water purification equipment to be rapidly deployed in a disaster zone or remote areas of the world.

Other innovation solutions presented at the event included SonicIQ which detects building air leaks using sound waves, and Thermolift, which combines the furnace, AC and water heater into one highly efficient device. Renewance presented a solution to manage the total life cycle of a battery including recycling and secondary markets, and INjoo creates machine learning software that can predict room occupancy rates with 89% accuracy without the need to install any sensors.

Since 2011, the Clean Energy Trust has invested in 29 Midwest cleantech startups, and those companies have gone on to raise an additional $86 million in funding and have created more than 300 new jobs. The competition says it has helped jumpstart more than 80 startups in the Midwest, including Chicago's NETenergy and LuminAID. “The group of finalists participating in our accelerator program this year is testament to the advanced level of innovation happening in the cleantech space,” Erik Birkerts, CEO of Clean Energy Trust, said in a statement. “Midwestern startups are thriving, and Clean Energy Trust is proud to serve as a launch pad for companies that are leveraging science, innovation and technology to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

photo of Beth Hartman

March 20, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

With speakers including Al Gore, Gina McCarthy and Ernest Moniz, this year’s ARPA-E Innovation Summit once again convened leaders in clean energy from all over the country and the world. Along with these political luminaries, industry leaders such as the CEO of the World Bank also spoke at the event about the importance of combating climate change. Finally, in addition to such large corporate partners, representatives from top clean energy incubators supporting the most promising entrepreneurs in the country gathered at the event to discuss how their organizations can do an even more effective job supporting technology commercialization.

Incubators in the network shared many success stories about supporting clean energy technology commercialization over the last year and beyond, including some high-level metrics. For example, among the top 10 incubators in the network, companies have raised over $1 billion in funding, generated over $330 million in revenue, and directly employ close to 3,000 people. Beyond just direct employment, the regional economic impact of these organizations is even more significant, as many of them work closely with local governments and universities. For example, recent economic impact reports from the incubators in Texas and Chicago show that in Austin alone the clean energy sector supports $2.5 billion in revenue and 20,000 jobs, and over 100,000 jobs in Illinois.

Many of the companies supported by the incubators are also now engaged with EPRI research and utility pilot programs, another great success story for the network. For example, Accio Energy is featured in a recent EPRI research brief on the benefits of generating energy from wind and water mist. The company has received support from NextEnergy and won the Clean Energy Trust Challenge, and most recently received $4.5 million in ARPA-E funding. AllCell is also supported by the Clean Energy Trust and is participating in an EPRI research project on thermal energy storage.

Bidgely has been supported by both the Energy Excelerator in Hawaii and the LA Cleantech Incubator. Most recently the company raised $16 million and is participating in EPRI research on non-intrusive load monitoring in addition to partnering with several utilities. Chai Energy is supported by the LA Cleantech Incubator and recently was named one of the winners for increased grid-edge flexibility programs in California. Ibis Networks is supported by the Energy Excelerator and is currently running a program with over 1,000 devices deployed across three university campuses.

After sharing success stories, incubators in the network engaged in a productive discussion about how to generate sustained value as a group going forward, including an exploration of funding models, membership process, and more. Maintaining a strong organization as a network brings benefits to many stakeholders, including incubators, entrepreneurs, and corporate partners. Incubators in the network benefit from increased deal flow as they share company referrals, while entrepreneurs benefit from more quickly finding the resources they need to succeed. In addition, incubators in the network can work together to collectively pursue opportunities such as funding. Along with investors, corporate partners benefit from viewing the network as a scouting system for finding the most promising innovations to solve industry challenges.

Overall both ARPA-E and the Incubatenergy Network meeting were very productive events for the clean energy community. We look forward to continuing to drive value and engagement through the network this year and seeing everyone at other great upcoming conferences such as the Clean Energy Trust Challenge, SXSW Eco, and more.

photo of Beth Hartman

January 15, 2016
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

With 2015 seemingly set to go down in history as the year humanity finally decided to get serious about clean energy and climate change, this year it’s time to start taking strong action on the promises made in Paris. Through helping the entrepreneurs supported by members of the Incubatenergy Network to more quickly scale and deploy their innovative clean energy technologies, we can more effectively address the enormous challenge we are all facing.

Along with collective milestones like the first Incubatenergy Network best practices report, annual meeting, and updated website with expanded functionality, network members and their portfolio companies all made incredible progress in the past year. Several of the companies mentioned below were also supported by more than one incubator in the network, a great collective success story. Here are just a few of the highlights along with ideas for more opportunities to engage and help these technologies scale further:

Austin Technology Incubator (ATI)

ATI supports Bractlet, a company that focuses on electrical sub-metering, and the company’s CEO Alec Manfre was recently named to the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 in Energy for 2016. ATI also released an economic impact report, sizing the cleantech economy in the Austin region at $2.5 Billion and 20,000 jobs. An interactive industry inventory launched by CleanTX showcases the 250+ cleantech companies in the region, as well. Finally, ATI also helped host SXSW Eco, which will be happening again in Austin from October 10-12 this year.

Clean Energy Trust (CET)

CET company founders of Design Flux Technologies, FGC Plasma Solutions, and SiNode Systems were also listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy, and LuminAID was featured on Shark Tank. In addition, portfolio company Ampy won the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show Tech.Co Startup Night. With their Clean Energy Challenge coming up in April, including over $1 million in prizes, there are sure to be more big opportunities for investing in innovation featured at the event.

Energy Excelerator

Energy Excelerator portfolio companies have raised over $223M in follow-on funding (in 2015, Bidgely raised a $16 million funding round and People Power raised $4.4M Series B). Beyond funding, Energy Excelerator companies have partnered with key customers to deploy innovation in Hawaii and other markets (Stem launched their 2.2MW distributed energy storage project with Hawaiian Electric and Ibis Networks installed over 1,000 InteliSockets across three university campuses). All of these metrics and more are captured in Energy Excelerator's first impact report.

Greentown Labs

Greentown Labs, the nation's largest cleantech incubator, is excited to launch a $11 million expansion to double in size! The plans were revealed at Greentown's annual DEMO Day, which showcased over 40 startup companies and attracted leadership figures such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In 2015, member companies Hydration Labs, Voxel8 and Altaeros Energies raised +$5M Series A rounds and, in aggregate, Greentown startups have raised over $49M. Greentown Labs supports 400+ direct jobs and 1,000+ indirect jobs.

LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

LACI was ranked #3 business incubator in the world by UBI Global in December 2015. LACI opened its new facility at the LaKretz Innovation Center and Joe Biden visited along with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to listen to companies like Chai Energy, FreeWire (also supported by the Energy Excelerator), and PickMySolar tell their stories. Chai Energy was also just named as one of the winners for more grid-edge flexibility in California. Finally, the incubator hosted their annual GloSho event in October and we are looking forward to another great gathering this year.

NextEnergy

NextEnergy supported company Accio Energy was awarded $4.5 million from ARPA-E and SkySpecs raised a $3 million Series A Round. In addition, founders Danny Ellis and Tom Brady were named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in manufacturing and industry. Finally, NextEnergy has supported Sakti3 for several years, and the company was just acquired for $93 million by Dyson.

NYC Acre

NYC Acre company Agrilyst won Tech Crunch Disrupt, while Bandwagon (also supported by the Energy Excelerator) partnered with JetBlue to implement their taxi sharing service at JFK airport and recent graduate United Wind secured $200 million in financing to expand their innovative wind leasing program. Sistine Solar also recently graduated from both NYC Acre and Greentown Labs, and received $1 million from the Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative to further develop their patent-pending SolarSkin technology for “camouflaged” solar panels. Finally, Pure Energy Partners helped to create and launch the new $20 million X Prize for carbon emissions reduction.

Oregon BEST

Oregon BEST company Energy Storage Systems closed a $4.5 million Series A round to further develop their non-toxic flow batteries, part of over $15 million in follow-on funding raised during the year by Oregon BEST Companies. In September, the organization hosted their annual Oregon BESTFEST event, drawing hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, and university faculty and students. We are looking forward to the next event this year!


With members of the Incubatenergy Network supporting such innovative solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change, this is the year when the promises made by global leaders and investors in Paris can help these technologies more quickly scale. Let’s make this the year of taking serious action on the enormous challenge we all face!

If you’d like to get in touch about helping support these clean energy solutions, please contact us or connect with members of the network at the upcoming ARPA-E Innovation Summit in Washington DC at the end of February. Incubatenergy will be represented at the EPRI booth and many incubator members of the network will be hosting their own booths as well.

photo of Meghan Bader

November 23, 2015
Posted by Meghan Bader, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Industry Growth Forum (IGF) has been running for more than two decades, which is evident the moment you walk in to the event. The buzz of conversation immediately fills the room as familiar faces greet one another and new connections begin to occur. One-on-one meetings kick off the two-day event, bringing entrepreneurs, investors, and other professionals together to pitch companies or strategize ways to work together. When the meetings conclude, new partnerships are formed.

Over the next day and a half, 30 startups pitch their companies to a panel of judges who score each presentation on product/solution, market and industry attractiveness, business model and team, and investment potential. This year’s competition was stiff, but three companies walked away with awards. Best Venture was awarded to Lightning Hybrids, while Sun Number and Stone Mountain Technologies were awarded Outstanding Venture accolades.

In addition to eyeing clean energy innovations from the entrepreneur perspective, the audience also heard a macro view of the clean energy industry. Dr. Dan Arvizu, who is retiring from NREL after ten years of serving as laboratory director, kicked off the event’s presentations with a thoughtful keynote. Dr. Arvizu discussed the clean energy landscape over the last decade, ending with the opportunities for partnership and advancement of disruptive technologies. Concluding that, “To achieve a clean energy vision we must invest in innovation, invent the future we desire, improve access to capital, and partner on a global scale.”

Dr. Arvizu’s words were inspiration for us to navigate the ever-evolving clean energy landscape and continue to look for new and innovative ways to advance technologies and their path to market.

photo of Steve Stella

October 21, 2015
Posted by Steve Stella, Electric Power Research Institute

So that there's no confusion, there are no bands playing at SXSW-Eco… wrong conference.

The fifth installment of South-by-SouthWest – ECO (SXSW-Eco) just concluded in Austin, Texas, held October 5-8, 2015. Similar to its sister conference, SXSW – Music, Film, and Interactive, SXSW-Eco brought together an eclectic mix of people, as well as businesses and institutions and created a safe, accepting venue to have thought-provoking discussions and an opportunity to drive business, economic, and social change.

Entrepreneurs told us that they're continuing to do what they do best — push the boundaries. From space-based mining and sustainable transportation technologies, to the development of animal-based products without the need for animals (What?). There were thought-provoking presentations and conversations across a diverse array of needs and challenges.

The Incubatenergy™ network was well represented.

It was a competitive startup field with around 50 startups being offered a pitch slot from an applicant pool of more than 250. Panels of 4-5 judges made up of venture capitalists, angel investors, and potential customers listened to -concise 3-minute pitches, and then probed the ideas and concepts with questions in front of standing-room-only crowds. The company pitches were exciting, and the energy in the room was palpable.

Beyond novel product and service ideas, our incubator network offered many great lessons-learned across the complete value chain to anyone interested in listening. I think this is a testament to the community that has developed. No doubt there is competition, but at SXSW-Eco the environment is one of sharing. OregonBEST offered insights and strategies on how to engage and work with University partners, unlocking academia's interest, expertise, and capabilities to solve startups' complex problems. Greentown Labs introduced their model on how they approach and structure strategic customer engagements, as well as their lessons-learned on manufacturing (hint — engage early!). The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) illustrated examples and offered suggestions to startups on how to move into the pilot phase, including some suggestions on deal structure, and the importance of getting your pilot customer to put "skin in the game"!

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was very engaged in a wide variety of discussions, interactions, and presentations over the week. Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Dr. David Danielson kicked things off with the DOE's views on advances in Geothermal Energy, Sustainable Hydropower, and Batteries (which was standing-room-only with a line out the door!). Head of ARPA-E, Dr. Ellen Williams, shared her thoughts on the program's direction, mission, and offered some recent successes in airborne wind turbines, radiative cooling systems for buildings, geothermal power, and grid-scale energy storage. There were many other open discussions on how the DOE already was supporting startups, and how it can continue to improve.

photo of Beth Hartman

October 12, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

After several months getting more familiar with many of the inspiring organizations in the Incubatenergy Network, we've noticed a few key strengths that they all share in supporting clean energy entrepreneurs driving innovation in the industry. These strengths are summarized in our first report on clean energy incubator best practices, which highlights examples of achievement in the following three main areas:

  • Company portfolio such as application process, graduation, and funding;
  • Regional impact such as job creation and economic development; and
  • Connecting services such as mentorship, corporate partnerships, technical support, events, and engagements with universities.

Through supporting entrepreneurs in these three key areas, clean energy incubators can lead the way to greater success for early-stage clean energy companies, helping promising technologies to more quickly demonstrate their value, scale up production, and gain mass adoption.

The report includes metrics and supporting case study examples from the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), the Clean Energy Trust (CET) in Chicago, the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), and NextEnergy in Detroit, along with the Energy Excelerator in Hawaii, Greentown Labs in New England, the New England Clean Energy Council, and Oregon BEST in the Pacific Northwest. Download the full report for all the details, or check out some highlights below!

Company Portfolio

The FreeWire Mobi Charger getting a Nissan Leaf ready for the road.

Leading clean energy incubators around the country support the top entrepreneurs in the industry, which can be clearly seen through evaluating the rigorous review process and low acceptance rates at these incubators. Providing support to top entrepreneurs leads to higher levels of success for these companies in terms of funding, corporate partnerships, and more.

For example, one of the companies supported by both the Energy Excelerator and LACI is FreeWire. The company's mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging solution (Mobi) is being piloted in a program at the LinkedIn HQ campus in a collaborative program with Siemens. For FreeWire, the partnership with LinkedIn is helping to refine the solution and prove the benefits of its expanded EV charging service before this offering is expanded to other companies in the region.

Regional Impact

The FreeWire Mobi Charger getting a Nissan Leaf ready for the road.

Another great success story is Lucid Energy, supported by Oregon BEST. The company is currently engaged in programs with the City of Portland and several other end users to prove the success of their in-pipe hydro turbine technology for capturing energy from water flowing through pipelines. The Portland installation is demonstrating the LucidPipe Power System's ability to deliver modeled energy production at a fraction of the cost of solar. As a result, Lucid's CEO recently stated that they are "inundated with interest," from other communities, and more North American programs are in the works. Connections made through Oregon BEST helped lead to this opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of the company's technology, which in turn provides the regional organization with a great success story to share.

With such strong companies supported by clean energy incubators around the country, it's no surprise that these organizations are having a significant positive impact on their regional economies. For example, the ATI economic development report, issued in collaboration with CleanTX, a regional development agency, highlights how the clean tech sector has contributed to economic growth and opportunities in the central Texas region. It concludes that the sector contributes approximately $2.5 billion to the region's gross domestic product and employs nearly 20,000 individuals in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area. The Clean Energy Trust in Chicago also collaborated on an economic impact report showing significant positive benefit to Illinois overall.

Connecting Services

The FreeWire Mobi Charger getting a Nissan Leaf ready for the road.

Finally, along with positive economic impact and helping to make connections with corporate partners, incubators can help entrepreneurs connect with other resources. Networking at events can help entrepreneurs find many of the resources they need, including not only mentors and investors, but also other incubator or accelerator programs that can complement the support they've already received.

For example, SkySpecs, which NextEnergy has supported through matchmaking, fundraising support, and strategy consulting, also went through the Techstars accelerator program in New York and won the 2014 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. Being supported by these prestigious programs has helped the company receive additional recognition and market visibility, including a feature article in TechCrunch.

Finally, providing technical support to clean energy entrepreneurs, such as helping companies file for patents and intellectual property licenses, is another critical connecting function for some incubators. One company that has received a great amount of technical support from incubators, including CET and NextEnergy, is Accio Energy, which has developed an off-shore wind technology that generates electricity using wind and charged water mist. Accio was a finalist in the 2015 Clean Energy Trust Challenge and has also presented at several other large energy conferences including the 2015 ARPA-E Innovation Summit.

In conclusion, clean energy incubators use many strategies to support entrepreneurs in driving innovation in the industry. You can learn more by downloading the entire report. This first white paper is intended to provide an initial overview of the metrics that members of the Incubatenergy Network use to assess their success. It addresses metrics relating to company performance, regional impact, and connecting services and provides case studies. Future white papers will explore each of these three main areas of support in greater detail.

photo of Beth Hartman

August 10, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The first annual Clean Energy Incubator Network Summit brought together over 100 industry stakeholders last week at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, including incubator leaders, entrepreneurs, utility executives, investors, and government representatives. Supported by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the Department of Energy (DOE), the event was timed with EPRI's Summer Seminar to create opportunities for networking across the incubator and utility attendees.

Along with a pitch panel showcasing top technologies in energy storage, efficiency, solar, wind, electric vehicles, building controls and more, the event featured keynotes from PG&E Corporate Strategy Officer Elisabeth Brinton and DOE Technology to Market Director Jennifer DeCesaro. Ms. DeCesaro focused on programs that the DOE is helping to run for clean energy innovators including the incubator network, the Cleantech University Prize (UP) program, and increased funding opportunities for clean energy entrepreneurship.

Ms. Brinton's remarks focused on advice for start-ups and emerging companies for working with utilities. Ali Adler from New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) summarized the major themes of Ms. Brinton's talk, which included: (1) build a foundational relationship over time built on trust and transparency - have a big vision but meet customers where they are today, (2) accept and plan for utilities' slow pace relative to startup agility, ideally by building diverse revenue streams, (3) build and demonstrate a reliably growing business model that does not depend on subsidies, and (4) cyber-security is vital.

Key lessons from Elisabeth Brinton’s keynote address, such as building relationships over time and focusing on cyber security.

Brinton's talk was followed by pitches from 17 emerging companies with relevance to EPRI's utility members' interests. Here is a quick overview of companies presenting in the first half of the panel:

The FreeWire Mobi Charger getting a Nissan Leaf ready for the road.
  • FreeWire makes mobile energy storage solutions for electric vehicle charging and diesel generator replacements. Supported by the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI), the company already has pilot programs in place with corporate campuses in the Bay Area like LinkedIn. Other LACI companies at the event were Chai Energy and PickMySolar.

  • Clean Energy Trust (CET) companies included AllCellTechnologies, GoElectric, and MeterGenius.

  • Several companies supported by NextEnergy in Detroit offered compelling solutions in wind, sensors (AMF Nano), and drone technology. For example, Accio Energy generates electricity using wind and charged water mist. The Guardian drone from SkySpecs features a seamless co-pilot that takes over flight control when an obstacle is nearby or a collision is imminent.

Key elements of the Accio Energy system, which uses charged water mist to generate a direct current. The SkySpecs Guardian drone automatically avoids collisions with both static and moving objects.

During the second half of the pitch panel, we heard from companies supported by the Energy Excelerator in Hawaii, the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC), and OregonBEST in the northwest. Here is an overview of those technologies:

  • From the Energy Excelerator, we heard from Bidgely, Edisun Heliostats, and Ibis Networks.
  • Enervalis is supported by ATI and came all the way from Belgium to describe a solution focused on sustainable energy solutions for electric vehicles, buildings and micro-grids.
  • Energy Storage Systems from OregonBEST makes an all iron flow battery.
  • Companies from NECEC included FirstFuel, Pika Energy, and VCharge.

Ali Adler from NECEC also summarized the whole event. "On Day 2 we kicked off with a set of conversation reviewing and building on what had been discussed the previous day, and then broke out into small groups to discuss opportunities for the network to play a role in solving some of the challenges that were raised. We also had the opportunity to hear from the NREL team developing online network tools, and the heads of two of EPRI's technology groups, who shared information about EPRI's priority programs and research efforts in energy efficiency and storage. We closed out the day with networking with the EPRI Summer Seminar attendees." In addition, the event included an optional tour of Prospect Silicon Valley on the morning of August 6th with the opportunity to view a Proterra electric bus and more.

Themes around collaboration and innovation between entrepreneurs and utilities, including leveraging incubators and building connections with multiple stakeholders.

"All in all, attending the workshop was a great opportunity to connect with peers across the country who are working on similar programs to support the growth and vitality of clean energy innovation ecosystems, and to connect with representatives of utilities who are interested in finding existing innovators solving big energy problems."

photo of Beth Hartman

May 18, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

During Boulder Startup Week earlier this month, the energy track of events highlighted a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities in the industry, both within the city and around the country. Starting with "Energy Entrepreneurship 101" on Monday and concluding with a networking lunch focused on the connections between energy and food, the week was filled with helpful tips for getting involved in everything from solar to electric cars, the internet of things, and social impact.

"Building a company is hard, so you might as well work on a problem that really matters," explained Dave Riess, one of the co-founders of Wunder Capital, at the Energy Entrepreneurship 101 event. This quote clearly captures the importance of working in clean energy, where enormous challenges like addressing climate change are literally essential for the future of civilization. Dave and his fellow panelists Charlie Bloch from Vision Fleet, Brett Jurgens from Notion, and DR Richardson from Vision Ridge discussed a variety of solutions aimed at this problem, ranging from electric vehicles and the new Tesla battery, to solar panels, smart home controls, and the future of the grid. While industry terms like net metering, duck curves, and grid parity came up, the conversation generally remained approachable to an audience interested in learning more about how to get involved in energy entrepreneurship.

The next day at Simple Energy, Hunter Albright from Tendril and Bill LeBlanc from E Source joined company co-founder Justin Segall to discuss energy and the internet of things, focusing on which connected devices may have the most appeal for residential customers. While falling costs are encouraging an increasing number of people to consider products like solar panels and batteries in their home, many more are interested in less expensive technologies such as Nest thermostats and LED lighting. Overall, the panelists agreed that the appeal of connected energy devices is related not only to the technology itself, but also pricing and marketing strategies. Such strategies allow these products to be bundled with other offers such as home security and positioned as a purchase that will bring the customer benefits like comfort, social status, and convenience, aside from just saving a few dollars a month on energy.

Panelists discussing energy and the internet of things at Simple Energy.

Wednesday provided a fun break in the middle of the week, with an energy and adventure track lunch time bike ride led by Quick Left and followed by two networking happy hours, one at West Flanders and one at Shine sponsored by Tendril. Both happy hours were packed, especially the energy nerd event at Shine, and the bike ride was attended by several dozen people despite the cloudy weather!

At the "Energy and Social Impact" panel hosted by the Unreasonable Institute, the discussion focused on how access to clean energy has profound social implications around the world, affecting economic prosperity, climate change, and more. Teju Ravilochan, CEO of Unreasonable, was joined by Skye Bacus from Tersus Solutions and Katie Block from Surna, companies respectively focused on eliminating the need for water in the care and manufacture of clothing, and improving efficiency for indoor commercial crop cultivation. The connection between energy, water, and indoor commercial growing facilities is critical, especially as drought impacts regions of the country like California where water plays an essential role in both energy production and crop cultivation.

Finally, the week concluded with an energy and food networking lunch, where two excellent speakers highlighted the connection between our daily meal choices and energy consumption: Olivia Ahnemann, a producer of the film Racing Extinction from the Oceanic Preservation Society, and Kristen Hess, founder of Compokeeper. Basically, the amount of energy, water, and carbon emissions involved in producing food like beef and milk is vastly greater than most people realize, with Olivia describing how the global livestock industry is responsible for more carbon emissions worldwide than the entire transportation sector combined. How we dispose of our food waste also has enormous implications for energy use, with Kristen explaining that almost 40% of the food grown in the US goes straight to the landfill.

Overall, the week provided a great overview of energy entrepreneurship opportunities in Boulder and beyond, with the introduction to "Energy Entrepreneurship 101" including an overview of the many excellent clean energy incubators supporting amazing early-stage companies like FreeWire, Lucid Energy and SkySpecs around the country. Thanks to everyone who participated and looking forward to another fun week next year!

photo of Beth Hartman

May 8, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The network of clean energy organizations in the Northeast is already strong, and the community has grown even more through the support of the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC), which hosted a very successful workshop at GE Global Research headquarters in New York last week. NECEC's Cleantech Navigate Northeast Summit brought together more than 100 leaders from the regional clean energy community to share insight on topics like working with investors, acquiring customers, and recruiting top talent. The event concluded with an excellent panel discussion on micro grids moderated by the CEO of Greentech Media, Scott Clavenna, and a keynote address during dinner from the Chief Marketing Officer at GE, Matt Guyette.

After introductions from Danielle Merfeld of GE Global Research and Janet Joseph of NYSERDA, the workshop moved into some facilitated networking, followed by group discussions of the three main topics for the day: working with investors, acquiring customers, and recruiting top talent. When it comes to funding opportunities, there was broad consensus from the group that better aligning expectations between company founders and investors would go a long way toward ensuring that the founders are matched with the correct type of funding for their company.

In proposing solutions for this funding challenge, the winning concept was called Entrepreneurial Harmony, or E Harmony, to highlight the similarities between securing funding and dating. The solution involves educational programs delivered through NECEC, such as funding evaluations tools, mock negotiations, and war stories, allowing NECEC to serve as an E Chaperone. This would allow company founders to gain a greater understanding of the type of company each investor is looking for and better align expectations to raise the chances of a successful match.

For acquiring customers, the group agreed that founders need to talk to more customers at an earlier stage in the company's development — and actually listen to the feedback they receive. Notably, in a survey of more than 150 clean energy entrepreneurs in the Northeast, the most prominent customer group mentioned was utilities (see word cloud below), implying that more opportunities to interact with this industry group would be valuable. Clean energy entrepreneurs identified utilities as a primary customer group.

Clean energy entrepreneurs identified utilities as a primary customer group.

The winning solution proposed for the customer acquisition challenge was called BABeL, which stands for Better Acquisition, Better Listening. This solution focuses on developing better active listening skills for company founders, through a boot camp training program, so that when entrepreneurs do have the opportunity to interact with customers, they gain valuable insight from the experience. This could help to prevent the issue of a company developing a solution that these customers don't actually need.

Finally, when it comes to acquiring talent, the clean energy industry overall could do a better job promoting the space to external groups, and individual companies could use more support understanding what their real staffing needs are at any given point in time. They could also use support actually executing the process of hiring, from posting the open positions on a variety of networks to selecting and interviewing qualified candidates.

The winning solution was called the Yenta Net and focuses on connecting top talent to exciting clean energy companies through working with the government to allow individuals finishing up at a large company to collect unemployment payments while working at an early stage startup. Another government-focused solution that this team proposed was allowing individuals who had a successful exit to get the capital gains tax back if they then go to work at another startup. Finally, headhunters who help find talent for startups would also get stock from a pool of top companies putting equity into a collective fund for this purpose.

Following the discussions of investors, customers, and talent, the meeting concluded with an excellent discussion of micro grids, moderated by Scott Clavenna of Greentech Media. The panel included Micah Kotch from NYSDERDA, Galen Nelson from MassCEC, Clark Bruno from Anbaric Transmission, and Ed White from National Grid. The primary focus of the discussion was how micro grids are a way to integrate distributed resources into the existing grid in a way that is needed and planned, supporting a more resilient and dynamic structure overall.

Finally, during dinner, the Chief Marketing Officer at GE, Matt Guyette, discussed the company's vision for the energy future. Attendees enjoyed delicious food, drinks, and networking during this concluding portion of the workshop, and we look forward to the next opportunity to get together with leaders not only from the Northeast but also around the country!

photo of Beth Hartman

February 18, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

At the first Clean Energy Incubator Network workshop, last week EPRI convened about 50 leaders from clean energy incubators, investors, and industry stakeholders around the country, to discuss best practices following the ARPA-E Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. Incubators at the workshop included the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), Clean Energy Trust (CET) in Chicago, the Energy Excelerator from Hawaii, Greentown Labs from Boston, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) in California, NextEnergy in Detroit, Oregon BEST, and several others.

These incubators are supporting some of the most innovative early-stage clean energy technologies in the country, from mobile car charging solutions to offshore wind energy produced without turbines. Several companies that have received support from incubators in the network were represented at the ARPA-E Innovation Summit, including Ideal Power, currently valued at around $45 million on the NASDAQ after graduating from ATI; FreeWire, a mobile car charging solution supported by LACI and the Energy Excelerator; and GoElectric, a micro grid company supported by the Energy Excelerator and CET that won major projects in Hawaii and New York. Also supported by CET is LuminAID, which makes inflatable solar powered lights and will be appearing on Shark Tank this Friday! Clean energy incubators discussing best practices at the EPRI workshop

Clean energy incubators discussing best practices at the EPRI workshop

At the incubator workshop following the ARPA-E Summit, one of the key insights we discovered was that all of the incubators are very interested in making stronger connections with corporate partners in energy. These relationships develop over time and are often most successful when each partner gets real value from the interaction, with corporations finding new ideas and talent to help their businesses grow, and incubators able to connect entrepreneurs with opportunities to scale their technologies more quickly.

In addition to corporate partnerships, the incubators discussed other topics like building and sustaining a strong mentor network, working with investors, and the incubator business model overall. When it comes to relationships with mentors and investors, many themes similar to working with corporate partners emerged, such as establishing credibility over time. Funding options for clean energy technologies specifically are often available at the state or federal level, and these initial investments can help lead to larger future funding opportunities. Finally, incubator business models are often real estate and service oriented, and many incubators are established as non-profits to allow for donations that can also benefit the entrepreneurs.

We look forward to sharing more insights in greater detail soon as we build out the network this year!

photo of Beth Hartman

February 9, 2015
Posted by Beth Hartman, Electric Power Research Institute

The Clean Energy Incubators Network officially launches during the second week of February 2015 at the ARPA-E Innovation Summit in Washington D.C. and we want to hear from innovators who are interested in joining the community! Through growing this network, our main goal is to better support entrepreneurs driving innovation in the industry, ultimately helping to facilitate a smoother transition to a more sustainable clean energy economy.

If you are an energy entrepreneur, this network is designed to provide you with a collection of the top resources you need to launch your company or commercialize your technology, including information about leading incubators, funding opportunities, testing facilities, mentors, and more. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on the latest developments relevant to your idea, whether your focus is solar, transportation, smart homes, or another area related to clean energy.

For incubators, investors, and other industry stakeholders, this network is designed to create stronger connections between leading innovators, allowing you to learn from each other and interact with your peers. Through fostering these connections, each group can improve their efforts based on the experiences of others around the country, elevating the level of support provided to entrepreneurs everywhere.

The founding incubator members of the network are the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), Clean Energy Trust (CET) in Chicago and NextEnergy in Detroit, and the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) in California. These incubators form the core community group, serving as the foundation for the network as it grows to include additional members from clean energy stakeholders around the country.

With disruptive innovation increasing across all areas of the energy industry, now is an especially exciting time for clean energy entrepreneurs and incubators to collaborate with industry stakeholders in building a more dynamic and sustainable clean energy economy. Distributed generation, automation, sensors, micro grids, electric cars, and storage are just some of the areas experiencing dramatic change, and this will surely only accelerate as tipping points are reached across clean energy technologies.

This accelerating clean energy innovation makes forming the Clean Energy Incubators Network now more important than ever. Learn more about the new network in the official press release here, and stay tuned for updates as the community grows stronger! We look forward to helping support entrepreneurs, incubators, and other innovators in the clean energy space.

To provide us with comments or feedback, please contact us.