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Starwood Energy, TS Conductor launch $100M power line venture

Alan Neuhauser
Aug 25, 2022
Illustration of an electrical power tower in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Private equity firm Starwood Energy and utility-focused startup TS Conductor have launched a $100 million joint venture to fix the nation's aging electric grid and clear a persistent clean-energy bottleneck.

Why it matters: The JV partners say that TS's carbon-fiber and aluminum cables for transmission and distribution lines can slash electricity losses by 50% while dramatically reducing construction costs.

  • Starwood is putting up the $100 million, a spokesperson tells Axios. The JV will be named Gridline Finance Investco.

Catch up fast: Power lines lose a significant amount of their electricity (heat and other factors pull it out of the lines). That, in turn, forces suppliers to generate more power to make up for those losses.

  • That so-called "compensatory generation" adds nearly 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year — roughly the same as the global chemicals industry, per a 2019 study.

Of note: TS Conductor says its cables sharply reduce those losses, unlocking huge savings for electricity providers and, by extension, ratepayers.

  • Carbon-fiber wires droop far less, allowing them to be installed on shorter — and cheaper — towers, the company says.

Context: Electricity utilities traditionally build expensive facilities and then pass the costs on to customers. Historically, that's created a strong disincentive for efficiency measures.

  • Starwood and TS say their joint venture will overcome that through both their wires and, from a financing standpoint, through ESCO contracts.
  • ESCOs, common in the utility sector, guarantee certain savings on an energy contract.

What they're saying: "If you think about a toll road, if the road is bumpy or smooth, you pay the same whenever you pass through," TS Conductor CEO Jason Huang tells Axios. His company hopes to change that.

  • "We have spent billions making our solar panels and wind turbines that much more efficient. We haven’t done as much on the power grid."

Meanwhile: TS completed its first commercial deployment of these carbon-fiber wires last year: a 230-kilovolt line it replaced for Montana-Dakota Utilities.

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