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National Grid Partners Invest US$20 Million in Startups to Transform the Grid

Oct. 24, 2022
Corporate venture firm unveils three investments as part of the first-ever NextGrid Alliance Summit, uniting utilities to decarbonize the planet.

National Grid Partners has announced investments of US$ 20M across three startups to transform the way utilities and other enterprises manage vast physical infrastructure.

The funding for Exodigo, Sensat and Visionary.ai was unveiled at the inaugural NextGrid Alliance Summit, a first-of-its-kind industry meeting of utility and energy leaders to develop and deploy new technology and share strategies for scaling clean energy to reach net-zero faster.

“Utilities have long been known for size and reliability but need access to new solutions to better serve customers and the environment,” said Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer at National Grid and founder and president of National Grid Partners.

“NGP is challenging the status quo by investing in pioneering startups and sharing strategies across the Alliance to tackle industry challenges. By uniting breakthrough startup technology with the scale of utilities, we are able to digitize, decentralize and decarbonize the planet faster and more affordably.”

Also at the NGA Summit, portfolio company LineVision announced two new agreements to install Dynamic Line Rating sensors on National Grid transmission lines in western New York and Cumbria, U.K.

The sensors, which provide real-time updates on line conditions, boost transmission capacity by more than 30%, reducing power curtailments and allowing twice as much renewable power to reach the grid – without building new utility infrastructure. The New York project is expected to add enough capacity to existing transmission lines to power up to 100,000 homes without additional infrastructure.

In addition, portfolio company Copper Labs announced it had teamed with National Grid on a first-of-its-kind program that helped cut customers’ natural gas use by 18% to help maintain reliable service during a major winter storm. Copper’s technology provides near-real-time insight into usage without expensive meter upgrades.

When the storm hit New York earlier this year, National Grid customers enrolled in the program received targeted smartphone messages encouraging them to modify usage during peak demand periods via simple steps like postponing a hot shower.

”We launched National Grid Partners four years ago to help us ‘look over the hill’ and bring new startup technology into National Grid so we can meet the changing needs of our customers,” said John Pettigrew, group CEO of National Grid. “We’re on a mission to fully decarbonize energy, and National Grid is a fantastic platform to deploy startups at scale to benefit utilities – like those in the Alliance – and ultimately combat climate change.”

More than 80% of NGP’s portfolio companies are actively engaged with National Grid’s business units to test, develop and deploy technology across its networks in the U.S. and U.K. Those collaborations not only help National Grid modernize and transform its operations, but also help startups scale their technologies around the globe in months, not years.

With today’s investments, NGP has backed a total of 40 startups dedicated to combating climate change across a range of applications, from cybersecurity to customer-focused solutions. More on the latest investments:

  • Exodigo (Palo Alto, California and Tel Aviv, Israel) uses advanced sensors and artificial intelligence to dramatically improve the quality and accuracy of underground maps crucial ​for design, construction and mineral discovery. National Grid engaged Exodigo to map the underground in two New York sites and revealed previously unidentified lines, avoiding safety risks, costs and project delays.
  • Sensat (London, U.K.) automates how infrastructure is planned, built and managed by creating “digital twins” to enable faster, more effective decision making. National Grid has worked with Sensat on major infrastructure projects in the U.K., where the startup’s visualization software platform dramatically streamlined the planning process and reduced costs.
  • ai (Jerusalem, Israel) has developed a pioneering software image signal processor (ISP) that enables cameras to achieve next-generation image quality even in near-total darkness. The company’s artificial intelligence algorithms dramatically improve the quality of images and videos taken from cameras at the edge, in real time – a game-changer for industries such as road safety, medical imaging and critical infrastructure security.

NGP has now invested US$ 350 Mn in dozens of startups across the U.S., the U.K. and Israel. More than 13% of its portfolio companies are unicorns worth US$ 1 Bn or more, a percentage that according to PitchBook data is among the highest in the venture capital industry.

The International Energy Agency estimates governments and the private sector will need to invest US$ 4 trillion annually by the end of this decade to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an eightfold increase from 2020 investments. Nearly all U.S. utilities have set net-zero targets to reach by 2050, but most are already falling behind. With net-zero too great a challenge for any one company, NGP formed the NextGrid Alliance for senior utility executives to share ideas and insights on how technology collaborations can speed the future of clean energy.

“NGP provides much more than just a check,” said Hudson Gilmer, CEO, LineVision. “They recognize it’s not easy to navigate large utilities, and they’re very helpful in making introductions to the right people who can help deploy our technology at scale. The NextGrid Alliance is an ideal forum for sharing critical insights around decarbonization while making C-suite level connections at leading utilities around the world.”

Other featured speakers at the NextGrid Alliance Summit include:

  • National Grid Chair Paula Rosput Reynolds
  • Jamie Siminoff, founder, CEO and Chief Inventor of Ring
  • NYSERDA Chair Richard Kauffman
  • Audrey Zibelman, VP of X, the Moonshot Factory, and former New York Public Service Commission Chair
  • Geisha Williams, former CEO, PG&E
  • Mark Webb, Senior VP and Chief Innovation Officer, Dominion Energy
  • Jonathan Silver, National Grid board director and Chair of the Global Climate Council at Apollo Management

“Decarbonization is a worldwide challenge,” said Adam Richins, chief operating officer of Idaho Power, who co-chairs the NextGrid Alliance Transmission Working Group. “The problem is, the industry is behind in transforming the grid. Working together toward a more connected, resilient grid will reduce reliance on carbon-heavy sources – and lead to more progress toward a clean-energy future.”

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