Start-up launch pad: US

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Meet the US start-ups that are disrupting, inspiring and evolving the energy sector.

Smart Energy International has dedicated this space to supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem and celebrating champions of innovation. To this end, we will regularly highlight start-ups that are participating in the Initiate! Programme.

Initiate! is a global movement that spotlights talent, empowers the next generation of energy entrepreneurs and creates impactful programmes to move the industry forward.

Enjoy reading about three start-ups making a positive impact through their innovation in the US and globally.


Copper Labs

Chief executive: Dan Forman

Why is Copper Labs cool?

Copper Labs helps utilities become more efficient, providing real-time energy usage data to the consumers and companies with a wireless solution to help take control of energy demand.

Copper’s wireless meter reader empowers consumers and utilities to track energy usage in real-time from electric, gas and water meters, and then produces actionable insights and generates consumer-friendly alerts that can reduce energy consumption when it matters most to the grid.

Copper provides a future-proof bridge to smart grid services for utilities still limited by monthly drive-by meter reading to access data and engage their consumers. For fully-deployed smart grid utilities, Copper Labs helps engage targeted consumers in real-time demand management, rather than relying on outdated interval data.

Area of impact

Even the most sophisticated smart grid deployments rarely have access to realtime data and a significant number of utilities can only access meter data every 30-days, with many of the largest electric utilities in the US accessing meter data via drive-by meter reading.

This inability to access the real-time data needed to stabilise the grid and maximise consumption of emission-free renewable energy can have huge implications for unexpected peaks in energy demand, which are expensive to serve and typically result in burning additional fossil fuels.

As more intermittent renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs) penetrate the grid, the need to align demand with the cost to serve energy has become increasingly critical.

To meet this challenge, Copper Labs delivers real-time, revenue-grade data from electric, gas and water meters, with or without smart meters. Copper takes the guesswork out of demand side management by engaging consumers with personalised and actionable insights, rather than relying on analytical models based on historical data.

Words of wisdom for others?

The cleantech sector is experiencing a renaissance after the widely-heralded cleantech 1.0 bust, but this time it’s different. No longer are we working to pioneer the frontier technologies of cost-effective solar and wind: now we just need to balance the grid and engage more informed energy consumers to do their part.

This opportunity represents a substantive mission for us all to secure a more sustainable energy future and the incoming administration plans to invest heavily in a clean energy economy. There’s no time like the present and we look forward to seeing you out there.

Learn more at www.copperlabs.com

Elektrik App

Chief executive: Mario Dealba

Why is Elektrik App cool?

In simple terms, we are the Amazon to the high-voltage equipment industry. But we are more than just a marketplace. High voltage transformers, cable, connections, you need them? No problem. Our software will show you all your options instantly, helping you match parts to specific equipment and offer alternatives.

The innovation to provide immediate access to availability in high-voltage equipment is crucial to power utilities. In many cases, the power goes down because a piece of equipment has failed. Finding that piece of equipment can be challenging and it may take days if not weeks. Through our software, power utilities can see availability and pricing instantly.

Area of impact

We are aiming to address two key challenges. First: help power utilities be faster in finding equipment. Perhaps a transformer blew up, a cable was damaged, or a termination connection blew up. Whatever happened, finding the right piece of equipment should be as easy as shopping for the latest gadget on Amazon.

Second: Assist in the communication between power utilities. When a power utility has an emergency situation and they need a piece of equipment, their supply chain departments will start calling neighbouring power utilities in search for a compatible part.

It is a really big challenge for them to understand what others need because power utilities all have their own part numbering systems. We aim to become the part numbering translator between power utilities to assist in times of need.

Words of wisdom for others?

If you are working on an energy-focused start-up, I commend you – it’s hard work. I would say, go all in. Don’t be afraid, and focus 100% of your efforts into your product development.

Sales comes second, and raising funds comes way after. I really think if you focus hard on building your product and making it stellar, success will come.

Fifty years from now, the 2020’s will be remembered as “the electrical revolution”. Electrical vehicles and renewables like solar and wind need infrastructure to grow and develop; Elektrikapp.com provides a way for people to find the parts and pieces to they need to build that infrastructure.

Learn more at www.elektrikapp.com

Community Energy Labs

Chief executive: Tanya Barham

Why is Community Energy Labs cool?

Community Energy Labs (CEL) is a company that seeks to bridge the emerging push for renewables and building electrification. At Community Energy Labs we are bringing to market the first truly scalable AIpowered clean building control system. Our innovative platform for carbonfree, affordable and reliable building control bridges the needs of customers, technology providers, and utilities. Our solution delivers frictionless customer choice without disrupting power markets or the grid.

CEL is an IoT & Software-as-a-Service control platform for building operators who find it complex, frustrating and very expensive to meet new building energy goals. We install wireless sensors and equipment controllers in under a week and use cloud-based software powered by machine learning to autonomously predict and efficiently control how and when building equipment is operating so that more of it is powered by renewables.

In doing so, we offer building owners better indoor air quality, higher levels of energy savings, lower carbon emissions, lower up-front cost, and faster returns than companies that come in, run an expensive energy model and then suggest millions in upgrades. While we think that’s fantastic, many organisations lack the time and resources to do huge renovations and upgrades – they need a way to decarbonise faster and more cheaply and that’s what we help them do.

Area of impact

Buildings are part of the very fabric of human life. Now more than ever we spend most of our lives in buildings. Our children play in buildings. Our parents are aging in buildings. We see wealth disparity reflected in the growing homeless populations on the streets of our communities. Buildings provide comfort, security and shelter, but they also contribute to climate conditions such as wildfires that pose a growing threat to society. Buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global GHG emissions.

I believe we can have it all: clean, affordable and smart building controls that enable better coordination of building energy use with renewable production. Software and machine learning have revolutionised nearly every aspect of our lives and have the power to positively transform our built environment.

Our team at CEL is passionate about affordably enabling communities’ building decarbonisation goals by 2030. We create social impact by offering mid-size organisations effective solutions for meeting these goals, ultimately accelerating decarbonisation and slowing climate change.

Words of wisdom for others?

This is a very exciting time to be working on energy innovations that positively impact climate and communities. It feels very much like the early days of solar to me. My advice is to avoid the hype cycles, social media frenzies and FOMO.

Cleantech innovations that succeed can take longer to reach the market than other products, but nearly everyone uses energy every day. Even if the lifecycle of your innovation is long and treacherous the impact can be huge and positive. Find a community of supportive mentors and peers and build a great business. Team up with “competitors” and help grow the ecosystem.

Learn more at www.communityenergylabs.com

We look forward to seeing how these companies grow from strength to strength and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of their journey. To learn more about Initiate!, visit www.initiate-global.com.