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.