GE Ecomagination Awards $63m to Ten Energy Tech Firms

by | Jun 24, 2011

Hara and Viridity are among the ten energy tech companies to win $63 million of investments from GE and its venture capital partners in the second round of the $200 million Ecomagination Challenge.

The $63 million in investments and commercial partnerships in phase two include ten new concepts from consumer clean tech sectors including solar, communications and software and building efficiency. This phase of the GE challenge, “Powering Your Home,” was launched in January as part of the company’s efforts to improve household energy efficiency through new technologies.  The winners include:

  • Ember, Boston, MA (Communications and software)
  • GMZ Energy, Waltham, MA (solar systems and services; co-investment with KPCB)
  • Hara, San Mateo, CA (Communications and software; co-investment with KPCB)
  • Nuventix, Austin, TX (Building efficiency)
  • On-Ramp Wireless, San Diego, CA (Communications and software)
  • Project Frog, San Francisco, CA (Building efficiency; co-investment with RockPort Capital)
  • SunRun, San Francisco, CA (Residential solar systems and services; co-investment with Foundation Capital)
  • Viridity Energy, Conshohocken, PA (Communications and software)
  • VPhase, Manchester, UK (Building efficiency)
  • WiTricity, Watertown, MA (Communications and software)

So far, GE and its partners have invested or committed to invest $134 million in the home energy and power grid technology developers announced as winners of the Innovation Challenge.  The Challenge has also produced 22 new commercial partnerships and resulted in the acquisition of FMC-Tech, a smart grid technology from the first phase.

Yesterday GE also announced five Innovation Award winners, who will each receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their technology. They were selected by an independent panel of judges including GE executives, academics and technologists. Videos of the winners are available at They include:

  • PlotWatt, Durham, NC (Communications and software) – Cognitive metering to slash energy bills. PlotWatt develops smart meter software that analyzes data to identify energy usage of appliances and provide customized money-saving recommendations via a web dashboard, mobile applications, email and text message.
  • Pythagoras Solar San Mateo, CA (Building efficiency) – Solar windows. Pythagoras says solar window technology simultaneously delivers energy efficiency and solar energy generation without sacrificing the appearance of a traditional window, enabling the design and construction of more sustainable, economically viable buildings.
  • Suntulit, Freemont, CA (Building efficiency) – Air conditioning control system. Suntulit’s air conditioning control system uses data such as room temperature and occupants of a room at any given time to learn user needs and offer ways to reduce utility bills by as much as 30 percent.
  • Xergy, Georgetown, DE (Building efficiency) – Cutting edge refrigeration compressor. Xergy says its green compressors can be used in household cooling devices like refrigerators and air conditioning systems to reduce energy consumption by 65 percent.
  • E.quinox, London, UK (Solar and home solar financing) – Energy and clean water “kiosk”. E.quinox is a student-run initiative to bring cost-effective, renewable energy to developing countries through off-grid, stand-alone photovoltaic systems.

“The Challenge is now an established platform at GE. Looking ahead, we’ll continue to accelerate growth through new partnerships and an additional commitment of $20 million to fund commercial pilots with innovators we have found through the Challenge,” Ecomagination vice president Mark Vachon said. “The Challenge has also changed how we do business at GE – we learned that accelerating open innovation across public, private and national borders can drive shared value for the company and its partners.“

GE and its VC partners also plan to launch a region-specific ecomagination Challenge in China later this year, as well as establishing a $5 million seed fund in Europe with Carbon Trust to provide support for early stage ideas that need help getting off the ground.

This first round of Challenge funding, announced in 2010, provided $71 million to break-through technologies in energy storage, utility security, electric vehicle charging services and energy management software.

Yesterday GE and Best Buy also announced that they are partnering to fast-track the commercial availability of two Challenge technologies, the VPhase home energy control device and the Suntulit air conditioning control system, so they can be ready for retail testing through select Best Buy retail channels in the future. Also, GE said Nucleus Energy Manager, as well as smart appliances with Brillion technology, will be available through select Best Buy stores in early 2012.

Earlier this week, GE published its annual Ecomagination report, which showed that the company spent about $1.8 billion on research and development of clean technologies and developed 22 new products as part of its Ecomagination initiative in 2010.

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