Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Oil giant Total invests in smart grid start-up

Steve Rogerson
September 28, 2016



Total Energy Ventures (TEV), the venture capital arm of French oil company Total, has acquired an interest in AutoGrid, a firm that develops digital products to manage and optimise energy supplied to and from the power grids.
 
Founded in 2011, California-based AutoGrid has developed an internet platform that provides the capability to balance supply and demand for connected distributed energy resources (DERs), identify and prevent problems, and optimise consumption of equipment such as meters, water heaters and chargers.
 
The applications use predictive controls technology to process data from energy assets and grid activity. Customers include utilities and equipment manufacturers that produce electricity from solar panels, batteries and other sources.
 
On a large scale, this technology enhances energy efficiency, thereby reducing costs and emissions. It also improves integration of renewable energies into the grid.
 
“Following on from the acquisition of stakes in Sunverge and Stem, this latest investment strengthens TEV’s portfolio in the area of smart grids,” said Philippe Sauquet, president of gas, renewables and power at Total. “Beyond the fact that AutoGrid promotes smart consumption of energy, its innovative solutions can drive major shifts in the way energy transmission grids are used, as well as greater, more flexible utilisation of renewable energies.”
 
The additional funding from this strategic investor will support further development of the company’s Flex suite of flexibility management applications for predicting, controlling and optimising distributed energy resources via the energy internet.
 
TEV joins a consortium of other series C-2 investors that invested $20m in AutoGrid in May. The consortium includes the utility-backed fund Energy Impact Partners, an investment firm representing four of the largest utilities in the USA and UK, and Envision Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based fund focused on software for big data, the industrial IoT and security. The consortium also includes Envision Energy, one of the largest renewable energy developers and technology providers in the world with over 50GW of assets under management and E.On, one of the largest utilities and renewable energy developers in the world.
 
“TEV’s investment in AutoGrid extends our firm’s involvement in digital energy that enable increased use of solar, wind, battery storage and other clean energy technologies,” said Christophe Tonion, CFO at Total Energy Ventures. “AutoGrid’s flexibility management applications empower the energy industry to use the energy internet to transform the traditional centralised one-way electric grid into a modern distributed bi-directional grid that is more efficient and extends the benefits of affordable, reliable energy to millions of more people around the world.”
 
Amit Narayan, CEO of AutoGrid, added: “We are delighted to welcome Total to our investor group. This investment underscores companies’ growing need to use the energy internet to optimise flexibility across a vast network of DERs if they hope to win in the new energy world. Total’s extensive industry knowledge and global market reach will accelerate AutoGrid’s efforts to build and deliver flexibility management applications that enable a smarter energy internet.”
 
Built on top of the AutoGrid energy internet platform, Flex is an integrated suite of energy internet software applications that enable utilities and energy service providers to build next-generation renewable-friendly energy networks by managing and optimising DERs in real time while engaging customers, enhancing reliability and reducing operating expenses.
 
Designed to optimise all DER asset categories including distributed generation, battery storage and demand response resources, Flex provides out-of-the-box support for all prevalent grid services and wholesale market programmes spanning residential, commercial and industrial.
 
This funding round is intended to finance AutoGrid’s expansion. TEV will sit on the company’s board of directors as an observer.
 
Total Energy Ventures is Total’s venture capital arm for investing in energy start-ups. Its investments support the development of businesses in areas such as renewable energies, energy efficiency, energy storage, digital energy and sustainable transportation.