AutoGrid has raised a $32 million Series D round, led by new utility partners interested in the company's artificial-intelligence-based data analytics platform to optimize the edges of their power grids.
Monday’s Series D round brings total funding for AutoGrid to more than $75 million. The Redwood City, Calif.-based startup previously raised a $20 million round in May 2016, a $12.5 million investment in 2014, and a $9 million Series B round in 2012.
All of its previous investors participated in the round, including German energy giant E.ON, Total Energy Ventures, Clearsky Power & Technology Fund, Foundation Capital, and Energy Impact Partners, the 14-utility partnership that’s raised more than $600 million to invest in energy technology startups across multiple areas of utility interest. New investors in Monday’s Series D included Hong Kong-based CLP, Germany’s Innogy, Danish renewables giant Ørsted (formerly Dong Energy), and U.S. power generator Tenaska.
According to AutoGrid CEO Amit Narayan, most of its utility investors are also customers.
The $32 million Series D was “about twice as much as we initially set out to raise,” he said in a Monday interview. “Given that, what we did was very clearly prioritize the investors who were already doing business with us, or were very near-term looking to do business with us.”
CLP is already using AutoGrid's Flex platform “to turn flexible energy resources into balanced real-time energy services,” Austin Bryan, senior director of innovation and ventures at CLP, said in Monday’s statement. CLP, which is rolling out smart meters and telecommunications across its densely packed urban grid, is “increasing the productivity and value of our energy assets and unlocking the possibility of exciting new digital energy services for our customers.”
Innogy, which operates in 16 European countries, sees AutoGrid’s technology as a “unique platform” in terms of “applying AI and big-data technologies to the energy value-chain," said Florian Kolb, managing director at Innogy New Ventures, in Monday’s announcement. While he didn’t mention any projects currently underway, he did mention that it “meets our current and future innovation requirements to develop our regulated and deregulated businesses further."
The company’s new round will largely be focused on expanding its reach in Asia and Europe, said Narayan. While AutoGrid has projects in India, Japan and Australia already, CLP’s reach extends beyond its 80 percent share of Hong Kong’s electricity market to energy investments across Southeast Asia and southern China, as well as ownership of Australia’s third-largest retail electricity provider, Energy Australia.
In Europe, AutoGrid is working on projects with previous investors E.ON and Total, as well as new investors Ørsted and Innogy, he said.
AutoGrid has seen its customers put its underlying data analytics and optimization platform to use for a variety of purposes. It got started with its Demand Response Optimization and Management System, which has been deployed by U.S. utilities, including Palo Alto’s municipal utility, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Austin Energy, Florida Power & Light and Hawaiian Electric.
Customers have also been expanding to tap AutoGrid’s capabilities as a distributed energy resource management system and virtual power plant (VPP) aggregator. In 2015, Dutch energy company Eneco Group started using its software to operate a 100-megawatt VPP. Last month, AutoGrid was tapped by startup Swell to manage the 3,000 lithium-ion batteries Swell has pledged to install in customers’ homes as part of a contract with Southern California Edison.
AutoGrid’s customers have also been expanding use cases for the Flex platform, Narayan said. National Grid, which is using AutoGrid to manage more than 400 megawatts of electricity demand response across New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has since tapped it to inform an unusual natural-gas demand response effort, for example. And Xcel Energy, one of AutoGrid’s earliest demand response partners, is using the Flex platform to help manage its grid battery demonstration projects.
“Unlike many point solutions that are focused on a specific functionality or use case, our scope is really quite broad,” Narayan said. Its customers are “touching everything from behind-the-meter assets like storage and retail electricity, to larger assets like wind and utility-scale storage.”
Monday’s announcement noted that AutoGrid is hiring “aggressively in energy, AI, big data and internet of things areas” to “manage increasingly larger-scale and complex grid modernization and digital transformation projects” across North America, Asia and Europe. The startup expects to have more than 5,000 megawatts of flexible resources on its platform before the end of 2018, for a compound annual growth rate of more than 100 percent for the third year running.