National Grid Partners expands investment in energy and tech startups

As part of efforts to speed-up the energy transition and the digital transformation of utilities, National Grid Partners is expanding its financial support to smart grid solutions and information technology startups.

The Silicon Valley-based investment arm of utility National Grid has announced that it is setting aside $150 million to invest in startups that have the potential to disrupt the future of energy through digital technologies.

The announcement follows National Grid Partners investing up to $227 million in digital energy technologies startups over the past two and half years.

Lisa Lambert, chief technology and innovation officer of National Grid, said: “Earth Week is a perfect time to announce this vote of confidence from our senior leadership.

She noted that National Grid this week kicks off its sponsorship of the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference – the biggest convening of global environmental policy and industry leaders since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Lambert also announced the two new startups added onto National Grid Partners’ investment portfolio through $7.5 million financial in aid.

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The two California-based startups Pathr and AccuKnow are expected to help enterprise customers protect physical and cyberinfrastructure.

  • Pathr uncovers human behavior and interaction in physical spaces like office buildings and factories. Pathr’s Spatial Intelligence platform uses existing hardware infrastructure to generate anonymous location data in real-time. Better understanding of movement patterns can help Pathr customers increase revenue, optimise operations, improve energy efficiency, and strengthen physical security at their facilities.
  • AccuKnox partnered with Stanford Research Institute to develop the KubeArmor technology which is built on seminal innovations in container security, unsupervised learning, and data provenance.

“We’re backing companies that can help National Grid serve its customers more safely and securely, so adding Pathr and AccuKnox to our portfolio is a significant step toward fulfilling that objective,” added Lambert. 

John Pettigrew, the CEO of National Grid speaks about how investments being made by National Grid Partners are sharpening the utility focus on customers and boosting clean-energy goals.

The investments follow an increase in attacks on utilities by cybercriminals and an increase in calls by regulators and industry players needing to invest more in the protection and resilience of critical infrastructure against the attacks.

A new report released in early April by the US Government Accountability Office reiterated that distribution system vulnerabilities need to be fully addressed for a national cybersecurity strategy to have an effect.

The US Department of Energy has also launched a cybersecurity plan as president Biden welcomes Chinese-made equipment. The plan comes in the form of a 100-day initiative aimed at confronting the cyber threats from adversaries who seek to compromise critical systems that are essential to US national and economic security.

Of all the startups National Grid Partners has invested in, 78% have strategic engagements with National Grid the utility.

The investment arm has led more than 60% of its startup investment rounds, with two M&A exits.

“We are investing in and deploying technologies across National Grid’s networks to enhance resilience and reliability, while more easily integrating renewable energy. Our company’s ambition is to become the most intelligent, cleanest transmission and distribution network in the world,” reiterated Lambert.