Nov 8, 2018

A power giant's Silicon Valley push

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The huge power company National Grid unveiled a venture capital arm Thursday and announced the first wave of what's slated to be $250 million worth of investments over the next two to three years.

Why it matters: The launch of Silicon Valley-based National Grid Partners signals how a big, traditional utility hopes to benefit from technologies that will shake up how power is provided and consumed in the future. That's a better path than sitting back and then getting undercut in the future.

What's new: They're focused on the intersection of information tech and low-carbon energy services, including solar power, electric vehicles and storage.

“We want to disrupt ourselves before we are disrupted.”
— National Grid Partners' Lisa Lambert

The big picture: The new branch is designed to be an in-house VC firm for the power giant. But more broadly, it's aiming to help incubate and develop companies, while bringing more innovation overall to National Grid, which provides power and gas to millions of customers in the U.K. and northeast U.S. states.

  • National Grid Partners envisions making 10–15 investments per year, ranging from seed capital to late-stage funding.
  • In addition to being investors, they plan to form what Lambert called "strategic" commercial agreements with some companies they support.
  • Lambert, who is heading the effort, is a longtime VC veteran who came to National Grid in January after gigs at Intel Capital and The Westly Group, a prominent VC firm.

Details: The company today announced its first 5 investments totaling $19 million. The recipients are...

  • AutoGrid, a company that provides software to help enable power grids with more renewable and distributed resources.
  • ClimaCell, a weather data company that National Grid Partners notes can "provide by-the-minute demand response for the smart grid for business optimization as well as asset-specific outage forecasts for storm response."
  • Leap, a company that provides distributed energy trading services which, per the announcement, "enables a more effective monetization of grid services."
  • Omnidian, a firm that provides monitoring, maintenance and "performance guarantees" for solar power projects, among other services.

Sitetracker, which provides software that helps industries including power companies manage their infrastructure.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 855,007 — Total deaths: 42,032 — Total recoveries: 176,714.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 186,265 — Total deaths: 3,810 — Total recoveries: 6,910.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful" on Tuesday, with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans. The White House and other institutions are observing several models to help prepare for when COVID-19 is expected to peak in the U.S.
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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