The state-backed Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has just made its first new investments in roughly a year, putting a total of $900,000 into cleantech startups eCurv and Powerhouse Dynamics. Both investments are part of larger funding rounds led by private venture capital firms.
Cambridge-based eCurv is trying to smooth out peaks in industrial customers’ electric demand with a system that can bring big systems like air conditioners or manufacturing equipment online in a more orderly sequence, rather than all at once. “Picture a large building with ten rooftop air conditioners,” says Alicia Barton, CEO of the Clean Energy Center. “When the thermostat hits a certain temperature, instead of all ten kicking on at the same time, this spreads them out a bit, so you don’t have those surges.” The result is a lower electric bill, since utilities tack on “demand charges” when electrical usage is at its highest.
eCurv is announcing today that it has raised a $2.5 million funding round, led by the venture capital arm of energy giant Exelon Corp., Constellation Technology Ventures. The company has seven employees; Edison Almeida is its chief executive.
Powerhouse Dynamics, founded in 2009, makes an energy monitoring and analysis system for businesses, with a focus on fast food locations. Already, chains like Arby’s, Wendy’s, and Panera are either paying for or pilot-testing Powerhouse’s product. “It can be hard to get managers of stores focused on reducing electric costs,” Barton says. Powerhouse’s web-based software allows a regional manager or corporate exec to see that “some of these stores are turning on their lights four hours before customers arrive, and that costs a lot of money,” Barton says. “They can compare stores against one another, identify discrepancies, and create competition.” (A screenshot of the software is at right; click to enlarge it.)
Powerhouse announced a $6 million capital infusion last month, led by Boston-based Point Judith Capital and Constellation Technology Ventures. The Clean Energy Center is adding $300,000 to that. The company is based in Newton, with 20 employees.
Given the “challenging” fundraising environment for energy startups these days, Barton says that the eCurv and Powerhouse investments “represent an additional move [by the Clean Energy Center] to try and help clean energy companies attain and attract the capital they need to be successful.”
The Clean Energy Center was created in 2009; it gets its funding from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which in turn receives its funding from a fee added to electric bills in Massachusetts.
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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