$200 Million “ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid” Competition Announced by GE, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital

Earlier this month GE announced the ecomagination Challenge. This is a $200 million innovation competition launched in partnership with Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, Wired).


The ecomagination Challenge seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies.  Proposals are sought in three categories — Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. This competition is open from now until September 30, 2010 to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.  Entries may be submitted via the ecomagination Challenge website


Selected entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:

  • Investment: The $200 million capital pledge of GE and its partners will be invested globally into promising start-ups and ideas
  • Validation: Evaluate entrant’s business strategy through in-depth discussions with GE’s technical and commercial teams
  • Distribution: Explore partnership opportunities with GE to scale a business and create global reach
  • Development: Leverage GE‘s technical infrastructure and GE Global Research Centers to accelerate technology and product development
  • Growth: Explore opportunities for utilizing existing GE customer to take Challenge products to market

In addition, five entrants will receive a $100,000 “innovation challenge award” acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.


“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world.”


GE CMO Beth Comstock said, “We took on a challenge when we launched ecomagination five years ago and we have learned about the power of partnerships to deliver clean energy solutions today. The challenge announced today is about collaboration and harnessing the promise of fledgling ideas and businesses to transform our energy future. We are confident in people’s willingness to change the way the world uses energy and in the ideas that will make this possible.”


“The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students,” said Chris Anderson, who is serving as an advisor on the Challenge. 


“Modernization of global electricity transmission and distribution systems have simply not kept pace with our society’s growing demand for clean and highly reliable power,” said Gina Domanig, Managing Partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. “Smart Grid innovation has been a significant area of investment focus for Emerald over the past decade and we are pleased to be a partner in the GE ecomagination Challenge.”


Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Koontz said, “Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change. We’re pleased to support GE’s initiative to engage the entrepreneurial community, and the powerful innovation engine it represents, in this effort.”


“Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is committed to a sustainable energy environment and are working to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel-based energy through our growing portfolio of innovative Greentech companies,” said Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be a part of the GE ecomagination Challenge, and we are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations.”


RockPort Capital General Partner Chuck McDermott said, “The electric power grid is the central nervous system of the global economy. Though today’s grid is a 20th century engineering marvel, the smart grid of tomorrow promises to revolutionize how we manage our homes, offices and factories and to maximize the use of next-generation clean energy resources. Through this challenge, we will match the best ideas and best entrepreneurs with GE’s commitment to innovation, unparalleled technical knowledge and its deep penetration into the most vital areas of the world’s energy infrastructure. Working together we can transform yesterday’s grid into a 21st century marvel.”


A video of the formal announcement of the ecomagination Challenge follows below.


Silver Spring Networks Obtains $75 Million; John Doerr and Al Gore Join Advisory Board

Silver Spring Networks

Silver Spring Networks, a Redwood City, California-based provider of Smart Grid technology solutions, announced ealier this week that it received a $75 million round of funding. This round, a portion of which has been reserved for strategic partners, was led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) Green Growth Fund and included returning investors Foundation Capital, JVB Properties, and Northgate Capital.  Ben Kortlang, co-manager of KPCB’s Green Growth Fund, will join the Silver Spring Networks Board of Directors and KPCB Partners John Doerr and Al Gore will join the Silver Spring Networks Advisory Board.

"Kleiner Perkins has a proven track record of backing winning technology companies that go on to be global leaders," said Scott Lang, President and CEO of Silver Spring Networks. "We are pleased that our systems and services are gaining such strong customer traction, and it’s great to have KPCB as an investor."

"Implementation of the Smart Grid is one of the most important clean technology initiatives of the coming decade," said John Doerr, KPCB Partner. "Silver Spring has emerged as the clear technology leader and Kleiner Perkins’ investment will help them expand globally."

"Silver Spring Networks has the only true Smart Grid platform which has been proven at scale," said KPCB Partner Ben Kortlang. "We believe Silver Spring’s technology will drive the deployment of the Smart Grid globally. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be an investor in this important company."

"This investment from Kleiner Perkins is a testament to Silver Spring’s technology and industry leadership," said Adam Grosser, Foundation Capital Managing Partner and founding investor. 

Silver Spring Networks current customers include Florida Power & Light Company, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Modesto Irrigation District, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, and Consumers Energy.

For more information:

SunRun Raises $12 Million in Financing

SunRun

SunRun, a San Francisco-based residential solar electricity provider, announced on June 24 that it raised $12 million in financing, led by venture capital firm Foundation Capital.

"SunRun launched last year with a simple goal: to minimize homeowners’ power bills with hassle-free solar electricity,’ said Nat Kreamer, President, Co-Founder and COO of SunRun. "The investment from Foundation will accelerate our ability to deliver SunRun Solar Service to our rapidly growing market, and we’re very excited to partner with them."

"With the cost of fossil fuel based energy skyrocketing, SunRun’s pioneering approach of delivering solar as a service is a huge positive step toward making residential solar affordable to every homeowner," said Steve Vassallo of Foundation Capital. "We are deeply committed to building great companies with entrepreneurs whose goal is to rapidly deploy clean technologies that have the potential to change the world; SunRun is doing just that."

The video below provides an overview of SunRun:

For more information:

Foundation Capital’s New Fund Includes $250 Million for Cleantech Investing

Foundation Capital

Foundation Capital, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm announced on April 7th that it has closed a $750 million venture capital fund (Foundation Capital VI) and that approximately $250 million of this fund will be used to expand the firm’s cleantech practice.

Foundation Capital began investing in the cleantech sector in 2003 and had committed $150 million to this sector prior to yesterday’s announcement.  Its current porfolio includes:

The firm stated that they are actively exploring investment opportunities in the cleantech areas that it had previously invested in — energy efficiency and intelligence, green building materials and industrial processes, food quality, and clean water — as well as in other areas including alternative energy and storage, advanced materials, carbon capture, and green consumer services and marketplaces.

For more information:

Three Venture Capital Firms Selected for U.S. Department of Energy “Entrepreneur in Residence” Program

U.S. Department of Energy

On February 27, 2008,  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner announced the selection of three venture capital firms to participate in the pilot of DOE’s new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program

The EIR pilot program will place three entrepreneurs (one selected and sponsored by each of the three participating venture capital firms) into three DOE National Laboratories to help bring promising new clean energy technologies developed by these laboratories to market.  Among their activities, the entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, and develop business cases.  The DOE is providing up to $100,000 for each entrepreneur to help defray salary and other expenses and each participating VC firm will match the DOE funding and may contribute additional funds to support its entrepreneur’s work.

Once a laboratory-developed technology is identified for commercialization, the entrepreneurs and their VC sponsors will negotiate with the DOE to license the technology.  It is intended that the VC sponsors will eventually form and finance a start-up company to commercialize the licensed clean energy technologies.

The three VC firms selected to participate in the EIR pilot program (and the associated DOE National Laboratory that their entreprenuer will work with) are as follows:

For more information: