Growing Energy Labs Inc., or Geli, has spent the past eight years quietly growing its share of customers using its software platform to control behind-the-meter batteries, solar-plus-storage systems, electric vehicle chargers, and broader building energy usage.

In the past year, it has landed new customers in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. It's also given away its software for free, as part of its bid to become an operating system for grid edge energy management. 

This week, the San Francisco-based startup raised $5.5 million in financing, its first investment since 2016. A filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (PDF) indicated that the funding involved equity as well as options or other rights to acquire security in the company. 

While the SEC document stated that Geli raised $3.1 million of an $8.6 million offering, Geli co-founder Ryan Wartena confirmed Wednesday that the company actually raised $5.5 million of an $8 million offering, leaving $2.5 million remaining. He attributed the difference to an error in the document filed with the SEC.

Geli’s last big round of funding was in 2016, when it raised $7 million in a 2016 Series A round from an unnamed clean energy family investment office and Shell Technology Ventures, the venture arm of Royal Dutch Shell, as well as $3 million from the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund. 

Earlier investments include a $959,000 equity round from an undisclosed investor in 2014, as well as a $605,000 investment in 2013 led by Invested Development, a seed-stage investment fund manager, according to GTM Research data.

The new funding is aimed at expanding Geli's work with key original equipment manufacturing partners, as well as to expand into new markets, Wartena said. One such market is Japan, where the company is involved in a handful of virtual power plant pilots in development, he said — though he wouldn’t provide any more details. 

Japan would be Geli’s third international market to date. In New Zealand, it’s working with competitive energy provider Vector, which has installed energy storage systems in about 30 homes to date, he said. 

And in Australia, it’s working with Energy Matters, a national solar provider that’s owned by Flex, the giant contract manufacturer. Geli and Flex have been working together in Australia since 2016 in a project funded by a Next Generation Energy Storage Grant in the country’s capital. 

Geli has also been working with NEXTracker, the solar tracking system manufacturer bought by Flex in 2015, to support its energy storage offering launched in December, he said. “We work with other major integrators, but that’s our first major OEM,” or original equipment manufacturer, he noted — an important proving point for Geli’s strategy of embedding its software to control batteries, inverters, solar systems and other equipment. 

Like many contenders in the energy storage software space, Geli has built up a varied portfolio of early-stage projects in which it has served a more direct role as developer, he added. “To work with developers, you have to do the project financing side very well. To work with OEMs, you have to do the interface to the equipment very well.” 

These experiences helped Geli refine its software as a tool for project developers, dubbed ESyst, which it started offering for free in April last year. About 1,500 developers are now using the software, including a few that are close to securing projects built with it, Wartena said. 

Geli has also started offering its software under a demand-charge management performance guarantee, he said — promising customers a year’s worth of software maintenance for free if it doesn’t accurately achieve its predicted demand-charge benefits with batteries and load controls. 

Not all of Geli’s projects have panned out. Its partnership with Gexpro to manage its line of behind-the-meter battery systems fizzled when the international electronics supplier decided to scrap the effort about two years ago, he said. And a pilot project in California’s San Mateo County to develop a grid-responsive solar-battery system faltered after the community college that was to host the site found it couldn’t manage the legal liability.

Most of Geli’s competition in the energy storage management software space has been bought up in recent years. Greensmith, which is managing megawatts of utility-scale energy storage systems, was bought by Wartsila last year, while German energy storage software and project owner Younicos was bought by Aggreko. In 2016, 1Energy, which has software in projects across the Pacific Northwest, was bought by Doosan, and French energy giant Engie took a majority stake in Green Charge Networks.