A smart grid refers to an electric grid that incorporates a lot of operations to condition and control the production and distribution of energy. Unlike traditional grids, it is decentralized and involves a lot of smaller distributed energy resources (DERs). In such a system, customers have more active participation and can both transmit and receive energy from the grid. Small-scale renewable sources such as solar or wind energy generations supplement the grid and improve its resilience and sustainability. Furthermore, the incorporation of sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) allows real-time monitoring of the grid and other energy assets.
As countries fight climate change, renewable energy sources and electric vehicles (EVs) are attractive solutions. Smart grid solutions make renewable energy sources more profitable for individuals and communities and address the limited battery and charging issues of EVs. Therefore, smart grids are bound to play a central role in the sustainable growth of smart cities.
Top 5 Global Smart Grid Startup Hubs
Using our Innovation Intelligence Platform, we analyzed the geographic distribution of global activity in the smart grid sector. We identified 25 regional hubs* that see high activity in developing smart grid solutions for the energy industry.
According to our data, Silicon Valley, London, New York City, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles are home to 270 startups* and emerging companies and account for 23% of global startup activity. Let us have a look at some of the smart grid startups from these 5 top hubs.
According to our data, four-fifths of all activity in the smart grid area occurs in Europe and in North America. Recent developments in the field, combined with hubs for innovations in sustainable energy, create ideal conditions for startups & emerging companies to reinvent how energy is produced and distributed.
Even though the rest of the world sees comparatively lower activity, the Netherlands and Germany are home to a great number of examples that develop smart grid solutions. As the use of smart grids becomes more popular, they are set to transform the energy industry, making it more transparent and decentralized.
#1 Silicon Valley | 89 Startups & Emerging Companies
Californian regulatory authorities have encouraged smart metering initiatives for over a decade now. The state’s continued focus on CleanTech is evident in its various green energy programs, such as an $800 million program to incentivize homeowners to add storage units to their solar setups. The Valley’s deep talent pool of analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and IoT entrepreneurs are developing innovative use cases for smart metering data.
Silicon Valley-based startup Span develops a smart electrical panel to advance the adoption of clean and distributed energy. Their product is a plug-and-play solution to meet the solar and energy storage needs of households. It also supports later installations to support EV charging, if needed. The solution comes equipped with embedded intelligence that categorizes and prioritizes the load and optimizes power use.
#2 London | 75 Startups & Emerging Companies
The UK Government’s Smart Meter Consumer Engagement Strategy has encouraged millions of households to install meters. London is leading innovations in smart grids with public initiatives, such as London Power and Energy for Londoners, that aim to promote clean energy and alleviate fuel property. Smart grid innovations in the city aim to make London businesses and residences carbon neutral.
OrxaGrid is a London-based startup that offers smart sensors and predictive solutions for power grids. It uses machine learning to track, interpret, and quantify events in the network to provide real-time insights into energy and asset conditions. The retrofittable sensors used are easy to deploy and convert power transformers on grids into smart transformers. The startup also measures and detects disturbances and outages on overhead lines. Additionally, OrxaGrid provides apps to allow for quick responses in case of a power breakdown, maximize operational efficiency, and monitor asset health.
#3 New York City | 47 Startups & Emerging Companies
The New York Public Service Commission mandates utility companies to provide minimum functioning requirements for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). The city is also pushing innovations in renewable DERs to supplement the power grid in order to prevent total shutdowns from natural disasters, as happened when Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012. Initiatives like the Advanced Grid Innovation Laboratory for Energy (AGILe) plan to make the city a global leader in smart grids.
New York City-based startup Ampcontrol creates a smart charging solution for electric vehicles. The solution enables utilities to allow more EV charging on feeders, reduce grid losses, and connect charging stations to local distributed energy resources (DERs) and energy storage. Moreover, the solution also reduces waiting time for EV charging and maintenance costs by vehicle-friendly charging and allows fleet managers to plan routes and driver schedules to optimize charging and reduce downtime.
#4 Amsterdam | 33 Startups & Emerging Companies
The Dutch startup ecosystem is one of the friendliest for smart grid solutions, thanks to initiatives such as € 5 billion ($ 5.5 billion) in clean energy subsidies. Amsterdam is leading the way in public-private initiatives such as virtual power plants that use smart grids to realize a zero-carbon future. The growing use of electric vehicles also demands innovations in smart charging and DERs to sustain the charging needs of public and private EVs.
Hailing from Amsterdam, DigitalTF is an energy startup that offers an ultra low cost, long-distance, low-frequency power line communication solution. This enables industrial units and residences to set up automated demand response to optimize power usage. The solution improves the efficiency of photovoltaic systems (PV) and battery energy storage (BES) units in the low-voltage (LV) grid. Lastly, the solution allows for smart control of public lighting to save energy.
#5 Los Angeles | 26 Startups & Emerging Companies
Just like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles also benefits from California’s focus on smart meters and clean energy. In a five year collaboration, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC), and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to expand the use of smart grids for renewable energy and energy efficiency. These continue to be the focus areas for CleanTech startups in the area.
ImpactPPA is a Los Angeles-based startup that uses blockchain technology to offer decentralized energy. The startup stores and delivers energy generated at utility-scale plants or micro-grids in over 35 countries. Consumers use their mobile devices to interact with smart meters to purchase electricity in a pre-pay model. Their solution improves the efficiency of energy transmission, reduces costs and corruption, and delivers trusted and secure transactions.
Innovations in smart metering make energy cheaper, reduce transmission losses, and enable DERs. Smart grid solutions, combined with renewable energy sources and EVs, play a central role in sustainably meeting the energy requirements of the future. As cities and industries look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, the scope and geographical reach of smart grid solutions are set to expand.
*A hub is defined as the regional geographic center of activity for this topic. It covers the center point with a radius of 100km. We define startups and emerging companies as those founded after 2010.