Enbala has just cemented its partnership with ABB with a new funding round. On Thursday, the Vancouver, Canada-based startup announced $12 million in Series B venture financing, led by ABB Technology Ventures, the venture arm of the Swiss grid giant.
The funding comes on the heels of ABB announcing last month that it has picked Enbala’s technology to build out its distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) -- an extension of its grid software to behind-the-meter resources. That can include solar PV, on-site generators, batteries and other generation assets, as well as pumps, chillers, fans, lights, and other energy-consuming devices that can be turned on and off in response to on-site or grid-side needs.
DERMS technology is a hot commodity among forward-looking utilities, particularly those in regions with lots of customer-sited rooftop PV. Most are looking to layer it atop their advanced distribution management software (ADMS), which has put grid giants like ABB, Siemens and General Electric under pressure to deliver this capability, Enbala CEO Bud Vos said in a Wednesday interview.
The new funding will help speed several pilot projects that ABB and Enbala are working on together that should be up and running this year, Vos said, though he wouldn’t provide specific details. “There are a lot of utilities buying ADMS products, and all are looking for the extension into the DERMS world. This opens up the ability to bring Enbala into those ADMS deals."
Enbala got its start aggregating industrial loads like pumps and refrigerators to play into frequency regulation markets for mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM, Ontario, Canada’s IESO and the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the past several years it’s adapted its technology platform for use by energy services providers and utilities, with behind-the-scenes work with partners like Hawaiian Electric and Southern California Edison.
Another new investor in Thursday’s round was National Grid, the U.K.-based investor-owned utility that operates big utilities in the U.S. Northeast. “They’ve been building a distributed energy business,” he said, citing National Grid’s recent investment in Sunrun, “and they see our optimization and orchestration platform as being critical to managing those resources,” he said.
While he wouldn’t say what the two companies were working on together, he did mention “going out and building massive projects that are very strategic for the grid,” with projects expected to be announced in 2017.
The new funding brings Enbala’s total venture capital raised to date to about $42 million. “This fuels the company for growth [and] R&D and gives us a really long runway,” Vos said. Previous investors, including GE Ventures, Chrysalix Venture Capital and Obvious Ventures, also participated in the round.
Enbala has a lot of competition on the DERMS front, both from grid giants developing their own platforms, to startups like Advanced Microgrid Solutions, Blue Pillar, AutoGrid, Opus One, Power Analytics, Spirae, Smarter Grid Solutions, and the recently acquired Viridity Energy. So far, the actual market for managing distributed energy resources is rather small, but GTM Research projects the North American DERMS software market will more than double by 2018 to $110 million, driven by grid operators’ need for visibility and control of distributed generation and demand response.