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Startups and Utilities Rank Their Top Ingredients For a Successful Partnership

August 6, 2016

· 3 min read
Elemental Excelerator

This week we spent time in LA at two events:
1. The Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Summer Seminar, presenting to an audience of about 35 utility executives and regulators, and
2. Incubatenergy’s Network Meeting to an audience of about 50 startups and clean energy accelerators & incubators.

We took this chance to ask both audiences similar questions and identify areas of alignment.

The technologies utilities are most excited about right now aligns with where innovation is happening.

DER / Management – 32%
Storage – 24%
Data Management – 19%
Customer Experience – 14%
Transportation – 3%

This slide maps technology areas utilities are most excited about to where Energy Excelerator companies are innovating and 2016 applicant pool.

Who’s setting the pace? Who’s leading and who’s following?

“Utility executive involvement” was ranked as a top 3 ingredient in the recipe for a successful startup-utility partnership

Utility recipe:
#1. Utility executive responsible for innovation
#2. Utility has cross cutting innovation team
#3. Utility operations team engaged in pilot
#4. Utility operations team engaged in pilot
#5. Partners have clear prioritization of utility needs

Startup recipe:
#1. Clear process for the collaboration
#2. Clear needs expressed by utility
#3. Utility executive involvement
#4. Utility operations team engaged in pilot design
#5. Utility has a cross cutting innovation team at utility

This is why we develop executive-level partnerships with the utilities we works with, Hawaiian Electric, Vector, and TEPCO.

Have a road to a clear business case and partner with a larger entity for implementation.

This reminds me of a discussion we had at this year’s Aspen Institute Energy Innovation Forum. An utility executive mentioned how there are many viable technologies at Distributech, but not enough integration between them. “Cleanup on Aisles 1-6,” she exclaimed as the room burst into laughter.

Bottom line: Utilities want to know how your solution can be integrated into their business departments, customer value proposition, and other technologies/partners they work with.

Utilities rank top characteristics of startups they partner with:
#1. Road to a clear business case
#2. Partnership with a larger entity for implementation
#3. Nimble planning tools
#4. New demand response technologies
#5. Grid automation

UL certification
#1. Startups share what they think are top characteristics of startups wanting to partner with utilities:
#2. Road to a clear business case
#3. Tested by other utilities
#4. Partnership with a larger entity for implementation
#5. Highly innovative tech
#6. UL certification

Will the U.S. be powered by 100% renewable energy in the next 100 years? Startups say yes, but utilities are skeptical.

Be patient.

This was the #1 piece of advice, from their peers and utility partners, for startups wanting to work with utilities.

Additional advice and raw data can be found here.