Meet the Money Behind the Smart Grid at Green:Net ’11


The smart grid has one of the hottest acquisition markets in cleantech right now, and both power gear companies and large IT firms have started to wake up to buying smart grid innovation by purchasing it. French power gear company Schneider Electric alone announced in recent days that it plans to purchase both data center equipment provider Lee Technologies as well as the assets of Indian cable equipment company Digilink from Smartlink Network Systems.

At our third annual Green:Net event on April 21 in San Francisco, we’re bringing together the pieces of the ecosystem around smart grid M&A. That includes potential acquirers like Schneider Electric, GE, ABB or Cisco, hot startups like OPower and BuildingIQ (and our 10 Big Ideas companies), and the investors that have backed some of the innovators early on like Foundation Capital and Claremont Creek Ventures.

ABB has bought three smart grid software companies over the past year, including the massive, $1 billion-plus, Ventyx acquisition, along with Insert Key Solutions, and Obvient. ABB has a young venture arm that it uses to inject some Silicon Valley spirit into the power grid player, as Andy Tang, ABB Venture’s managing director and former founding managing director at DFJ DragonFund, recently explained to me. (Tang will be speaking in a fireside chat about tools for maintaining grid health at Green:Net 2011.) ABB has invested in electric car charging startup Ecotality, smart grid network player Trilliant (a Green:Net sponsor), and data center efficiency company PowerAssure.

Analytics for finding value in large energy data sets could prove particularly valuable for energy players and utilities. Meter maker and meter data management company Itron bought analytics company Asais in December. Home energy management company Tendril bought Grounded Power for its behavioral analytics tools.

Building energy efficiency has finally started to deliver some acquisitions, including Alstom recently buying UISOL, a key player in the open-source demand response standard OpenADR. In a similar move, Honeywell bought Akuacom, a startup selling servers and services based on OpenADR. Cisco bought building and IT networking system Richards-Zeta Building Intelligence back in 2009, and Serious Materials bought energy software company Valence Energy for its building energy management product last year. Most recently IBM acquired Tririga partly for its smart building software.

The smart grid isn’t just about building energy; it’s about using networking to connect all energy resources across a city. At Green:Net, Cisco SVP, TelePresence, Emerging Technologies and Consumer Business Marthin De Beer, will talk about “smart cities,” Silver Spring Networks will host a panel on smart communities and the consumer, and Microsoft’s Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard will focus on how software and connected devices are making our world more efficient.

Buy tickets to Green:Net 2011 before they sell out as previous years have. I’ll see you there!

Image courtesy of GigaOM Events.


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