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RS Technologies nets $109M for composite utility poles

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

RS Technologies, which makes bendy utility poles from fiberglass and polyurethane, has received a roughly $109 million investment from Energy Impact Partners.

Why it matters: The investment is flowing into a Calgary-based company that says its structures are more hardy, more sustainable and more versatile than the competition at a time when severe weather and wildfires have electric utilities scrambling to replace traditional wood poles.

Details: RS is a portfolio company of the Werklund Growth Fund, a private equity firm based in Calgary. EIP partner Steven Kantowitz will gain a board seat.

State of play: There are roughly 175 million utility structures in North America, RS CEO George Kirby tells Axios. About 160 million of them are made from wood.

Zoom in: The company's composite poles last 120 years — about three times as long as a typical wood pole, Kirby says.

  • The poles are also modular, meaning they can be assembled on-site, making transportation more efficient.

Of note: Extreme weather has boosted demand for the composite poles, Kirby says. Soaring costs for wood, steel and cement have also helped close the gap in price for his company's product.

Meanwhile: Some competitors have introduced poles made from polyethylene or polyester instead of polyurethane.

What's next: RS runs two manufacturing facilities. It plans to use the investment to expand that capacity.

  • "Composites are a fraction of a percent of the market," Kantowitz, of EIP, tells Axios. "Utilities are being more proactive about this. For some, that means they replace 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 poles a year."
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