Free Electrons: A global alliance of energy utilities

American Electric Power & AusNet

One of the characteristics that make Free Electrons a huge opportunity for startups is that it is truly global: the startups joining the program will get a chance to work with 10 global utilities, with experience and big markets under their belt.

Let’s get to know two of the utilities that are part of the Free Electrons utility alliance.

American Electric Power – AEP

American Electric Power is based in Columbus, Ohio, and is focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to its customers.

We spoke with Ram Sastry, the Vice President of Innovation and Technology at AEP, who highlighted the pilots developed in 2018: with Kisensum, whose software Energy Management storage platform allows owners of electric cars, building loads and solar panels to optimize and integrate all these resources and optimize them; Howz, whose app allows customers to monitor the activity of elderly loved ones and receive alerts in case of abnormal behavior; and a third one where they partnered up with a startup and three other utilities in the program to develop a pilot, coordinating common goals.

We learned a lot negotiating with each other and coming up with common goals and a common framework.

According to Sastry, the program is rich in learning, giving equal importance to the learnings utilities get from working from startups, but also the learning they get from working with each other.

To AEP is clear that energy utilities are not stuck in the past: the future will not be equal to the present and past, so Free Electrons’ utilities are ready to welcome startups and create the solutions and products consumers’ are waiting for.

Watch the whole interview:


AusNet

A major player in the Australian energy industry, AusNet is Victoria’s largest energy delivery service business owning and operating approximately $11 billion of electricity and gas distribution assets that connect into more than 1.3 million homes and businesses.

We spoke with Chad Hymas, Executive General Manager of AusNet, who highlighted the pilots they developed in the last edition, like data analytics and energy sharing in order to create a new transactional future for energy.

AusNet is also pleased with the collaboration between utilities, as sharing information helps them move forward even with startups they didn’t started pilots with, and also come up with real global solutions that can shape the future.

The collaboration between utilities has helped us go back to Aperio [startup from Free Electrons ‘17], cause we know other members of Free Electrons are also using their solution, and that gives us the confidence to treat them a more mature vendor.

According to Hymas, to becoming winners (of the program but also of new clients), startups must make very clear from the beginning what is the added value they bring, the problem they are solving, and genuine about their business and what their mission is.

Watch the full interview below:

The first module of Free Electrons ‘19 will happen on the 21st – 24th of May in Columbus, Ohio, home of AEP. The objective of this first module will be to match solutions with concrete challenges and define a collaborative roadmap for the first pilot among startups and Utilities.

Free Electrons: Discover the 15 startups joining the piloting phase

Free Electrons, the first global energy startup accelerator program, that connects the world’s most promising energy startups with leading utility companies, just selected the 15 teams that will now join the piloting phase program, after the Bootcamp.

The Bootcamp

The Bootcamp week is a critical part of the success of the program, and this year was held in Dublin and hosted by ESB. During this stage, utilities got to know in detail the potential of having these innovative disruptive solutions applied to their businesses. For Startups, it represents an enormous opportunity, not only to speak directly with 10 global companies but also to collect valuable feedback about their products, features and roadmaps.

Just by attending the Bootcamp startups are able to test their business cases potential on a global platform, enriched by the different expertise from the 10 utilities in their home markets. In just 3 days, startups need to quickly adjust to all the utility requirements, work together with them in creating room for a pilot to be held, and then present a viable pilot case.  

The top 30 Bootcamp startups also had the chance to talk with CEOs from Free Electrons ’17 & ’18 winning startups – Sebastian Groh from ME SOLshare and Rui Beon form BeOn Energy – whose testimonials are key examples of the impact the program can have in helping startups scale fast, get funding or close new deals, alongside other alumni, Jungle.ai and Sterblue, who also shared their experience on the program.

The Bootcamp has also allowed for the opportunity to showcase Irish startup ecosystem, with several local companies invited to join the event.

The 15 finalist startups

The overall quality level of the 30 startups that qualified to the Bootcamp was amazing – all of them helped the utilities learn, and had really talented founders, that are already having an impact in the future of the energy sector.

But the 15 startups joining the piloting phase of Free Electrons ‘19 are Akselos SA, Ambi Labs Limited, CARTO, DEXMA, Energyworx, Enging – Make Solutions, envelio, ev.energy, GridBeyond, Heila Technologies Inc., Hygge Power, Save To Compete, Sensewaves, Solandeo and WePower.

These 15 startups will join the utilities on the 1st module, that will take place in Columbus, Ohio (EUA), from May 21st to 24th.


How Free Electrons is shaping the Energy Sector

Digital transformation is taking over a large spectrum of industries, with the integration of digital technology into all areas of business, fundamentally changing how companies operate and deliver value to customers.

In the vanguard of this transformation is Free Electrons, the first global energy accelerator. Applications results reinforce Free Electrons positioning as the world-leading innovation platform for energy-related startups, the current edition had 481 applications, with 90% new entries.

Manuel Tânger, Co-founder and Head of Open-Innovation at Beta-i

We spoke with Manuel Tânger, Head of Open-Innovation at Beta-i, about how Free Electrons incorporates innovation methodologies to bring innovation to the sector.


What are the main innovation methodologies Beta-i is bringing to Free Electrons’ innovation framework?

Free Electrons is a program focused on creating the best conditions for the most innovative utilities to work with startups in order to innovate. This sounds easy, but it’s quite hard. To facilitate this, we focus very heavily on making pilots happening as a way to test profusely and ultimately get to the coveted deals between utilities and startups. Experimentation is, I would say, the core methodological concept of Free Electrons. But to do this, these pilots need to be thought up, designed, implemented and followed-up on. We, as Beta-i, have to create the moments and the mindset needed for both utilities and startups to think creatively on how they may work together and maybe do something that no one has ever done before. In particular, we use a “pilot canvas” that helps startups map out possible pilots to then be analyzed, discussed and fine-tuned with the utilities.

How do you build a framework that adds value to both startups and utilities?

When interests are fully aligned, then naturally what is good for startups is good for utilities. Utilities want to innovate and bring to market the best and newest offer possible, which generally involves new technology and business models. On the other hand, startups want a large audience to their niche product/service to be able to scale and improve their high performing product even more. Free Electrons makes this possible by design.

What are the key elements/moments in it?

It’s a long process from the partners’ needs assessment to the demo day, but one of the critical moments is the Bootcamp – which is happening right now in Dublin. It’s where startups and partners’ meet for the first time and try to look at the future together – and then pilot a solution for this future. It all happens in one intense week, and it has to work from then onwards.

By putting into contact these startups and quickening the speed of their scaling through collaboration with large global utilities, Free Electrons is, without question, accelerating this transformation with great benefit to all!

How do you think Free Electrons is helping re-shaping the energy sector worldwide?

The energy sector is going through a massive transformation with the consolidation and application of new technology. It is now cheaper to produce energy by solar than any other mean. Batteries are almost at a price point to make it competitive to store in the production luls at scale. Micro-production is now turning users into producers and contributors to the network. Electric vehicles are huge now and upcoming energy consumer but also batteries to be used as network balancing. Smart meters are gathering very fine-tuned user data that is propelling the appearance of new business models due to the data. This same data helps utilities and users maximize energy usage while minimizing the cost and also allows utilities to reach out to new spaces that go beyond energy and into services. These are a few of the highlights of the tectonic shift happening right now in the energy market. And startups are working on all of them! With the focus and zeal characteristic of modern tech entrepreneurs. By putting into contact these startups and quickening the speed of their scaling through collaboration with large global utilities, Free Electrons is, without question, accelerating this transformation with great benefit to all! To us, normal energy consumers, to startups that scale to grown-ups and utilities that capitalize on being first to embrace this change.

Here are the top startups joining Free Electrons Bootcamp

free-electrons-startups-bootcamp

Free Electrons, the first energy global accelerator is ready to kick off its Bootcamp phase. In total, the program received 481 applications, from 62 different countries, a ‘spread’ that talks volumes about the international reach of the program.

The program only had a 10% repeat rate, and that means 90% of the startups we attracted are new entries, and that talks to the global visibility of the program, and its growing appeal.

The bootcamp

The bootcamp, held in Dublin (Ireland) from 2nd to 4th, will be critical for the success of the program, since this is when utilities and startups meet for the first time, to discuss the challenges and what the solutions to meet those challenges will look like.

This is also when the terms for the pilots are first set, and this will pretty much define the final quality of the pilots and the program as a whole.

The selected startups

These are the innovators that will be flying to Dublin to meet the 10 Free Electrons’ partners and join the Bootcamp activities (click the tab to get to know them better):

Free Electrons: Meet the partners and what they are looking for! (Part 2)

Free Electrons: Meet the partners and what they are looking for! (Part 2)

Free Electrons is a truly global accelerator backed up by an alliance of energy utilities, committed to supporting energy entrepreneurs and startups to transform the energy market with next-generation ideas.

Energias de Portugal (EDP)

EDP is an energy producer, distributor and retailer with around 12 million customers in Portugal, Spain and Brazil. EDP has 25GW of power production capacity of which 5GW is hydro and 10GW is wind. This makes EDP the 4th largest wind power producer in the world. The renewable power business is present in 14 countries including the US, Brazil, Spain and the UK.

What are they looking for?

  • Renewable power and distributed energy resources;
  • Electric cars;
  • Data management and AI;
  • Digitization processes.

Opening up the utility world to the startups, providing them with a global customer base, accelerating deal execution with the utilities, that’s what Free Electrons is all about. I can’t think of a better opportunity for a startup operating in this space.

Luis Manuel
Executive Board Member,
EDP Innovation

innogy New Ventures LLC

innogy SE is a European energy company, offering sustainable and innovative energy solutions. With its three business areas of renewables, grid & infrastructure as well as retail, it addresses the requirements of a modern, decarbonized, decentralized and digital energy world.

What are they looking for?

  • Solutions active in the data space.

We started Free Electrons because there is a deep need in our industry to access and source innovation. Free Electrons, therefore, has a very transaction-oriented approach – generating deals between startups and corporates is the prime objective of Free Electrons. We assembled a unique consortium of innovative utilities that spend billions every year in running and transforming energy systems globally.

Florian Kolb
Managing Director,
Innogy New Ventures LLC

Origin Energy

Origin is an Australian integrated energy solutions provider with leading positions across energy retailing, power generation and natural gas production. Origin has a rapidly growing renewable energy portfolio and was the world’s first energy company to adopt all seven ‘We Mean Business Coalition’ initiatives, joining a worldwide group of non-government organizations, signatory companies and institutional investors committed to leadership on climate change.  Origin is also scaling up its capabilities in digital metering and data and analytics to create more innovative and differentiated energy solutions for its millions of customers.

What are they looking for?

  • Renewable energy;
  • Data-based technology.

Origin sees the enormous potential of combining the best ideas with those companies capable of delivering them at significant scale. By leveraging all the expertise of the many partners involved we are confident extraordinary outcomes will be reached.

Anthony Lucas
Executive General Manager, Future Energy and Business Development,
Origin Energy

SP Group

SP Group is a leading energy utility group in the Asia Pacific. It owns and operates electricity and gas transmission and distribution businesses in Singapore and Australia, and district cooling businesses in Singapore and China. SP Group is committed to providing customers with reliable and efficient energy utility services. More than 1.4 million industrial, commercial and residential customers in Singapore benefit from SP Group’s world-class transmission, distribution and market support services. These networks are amongst the most reliable and cost-effective worldwide. For more information, please visit spgroup.com.sg follow us on Facebook

What are they looking for?

  • New areas of energy transformation and transition;
  • New technologies and new business models for their customers, that allow them to reduce costs.

SP Group is committed to providing high quality, sustainable lifestyle for customers. We are excited to partner respected international utilities and experienced accelerators, who have extensive innovation and R&D experience, to support promising start-ups around the world. Together we can develop transformational energy solutions to provide customers with more choices, and help them to save energy and costs.

May Liew
Vice President, Strategic Development,
SP Group

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO)

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (TSE: 9501), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, is the largest utility in Japan serving millions of homes and businesses. Worldwide the company has more than 43 subsidiaries and 19 affiliates in 4 countries and employs approximately 41,525 people. Consolidated revenue for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018, totaled 5.8 trillion Japanese yen. The company was established in 1951 and is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

What are they looking for?

  • New technologies;
  • New business models;
  • Transmission and distribution;
  • Renewable energies.

TEPCO is excited to work with all of the global utilities and startups participating in the Free Electrons program. We value the opportunity to learn from their innovative business models and technologies, and hope to leverage these learnings for the benefit of our customers.

Takafumi Anegawa
President of TEPCO Research Institute,
TEPCO