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Summary:

GE announces a $200 million fund for smart grid innovation along with an electric vehicle charger called the Watt Station and a home energy device called the Nucleus.

Updated: General Electric and a group of venture firms including Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital announced a $200 million fund for a “smart grid challenge” on Tuesday morning. The group is asking startups and entrepreneurs with new smart grid ideas based around open collaboration to submit their ideas to the challenge (found here), for the chance to win $100,000 or more in funds and the possibility of working commercially with GE.

Update: GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt tells us that GE will provide $100 million of the funds and the venture firms collectively will offer the remaining $100 million. Immelt also told me that the challenge could potentially lead to equity investments and M&A for GE.

GE can bring its industrial clout, reliability, trust and scale to the smart grid, said GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt at the event. GE and its partners — which also includes Emerald Technology Ventures, RockPort Capital, and Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson — will evaluate the entrants, give business guidance, and help the entrepreneurs find commercial partnerships with GE.

For GE and the venture capitalists, this “smart grid challenge” will give them access to the next generation of early stage smart grid startups that are eager to work with such a large partner. Anderson said on a panel at the event that the project was a good analogy to the creation of the Internet, where open innovation would help deliver new applications.

GE also took the opportunity of the media event on Tuesday morning to announce two new products for Ecomagination, including an electric vehicle charger called the Watt Station, and a home energy management device called the Nucleus. (More on these products later today.) Updated: See the details on the EV charger here.

For more research on the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Moving Into Substation Networking, Cisco Seizes Smart Grid’s Low-Hanging Fruit

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