Free Electrons, the worldwide acceleration program linking the most promising startups to 10 of the world's largest electric utilities, has finished this year with an impressive 43 pilot projects, developed among the various companies that will help accelerate the energy revolution.
EDP was the utility that stood out the most by empowering nine pilots with startups from around the world from diverse areas such as predictive intelligence, blockchain and cybersecurity.
Following the success of the first edition held last year, Free Electrons 2018 numbers are even more surprising: in just six months, business between the electric companies and the startups exceeded 2.7 million euros, an investment by the utilities that represents 38% more than in 2017.
In addition to the deals closed during the six-month program, the fourth and final module of Free Electrons ended with the choice of the big winner of 2018.
SOLshare, the Bangladesh startup in which EDP Ventures invested last month, won the € 174,000 prize ($ 200,000) awarded in the grand finale in Berlin.
EDP CEO António Mexia accompanied the final pitch of the 15 startups and the choice of the big winner.
"Secrets are no longer the soul of the business. This Free Elecrons' mindset of sharing ideas is essential in a sector that is in full revolution at an unprecedented speed. It was exciting to be part of this week, and to be recognized by all that our team was the one that gave more soul to this program, which has once again proven EDP Group's strong spirit of openness and innovation," says António Mexia.
Free Electrons is showing results in increasingly shorter time frames: for example, Sterblue was able to perform a technical inspection of an ESB wind farm with fully autonomous drones during the program.
This allowed the French startup to have the knowledge to make more pilots and to develop new skills with other electric utilities, some of which, like EDP, ended up investing in the company.
The Portuguese electric company has invested in 4 companies that are revolutionizing the market: In addition to Sterblue, the big winner SOLshare created, in Bangladesh, one of the most advanced peer-to-peer resale solutions based on blockchain technology, achieving an investment of 430 thousand euros (500 thousand dollars), which will allow it to expand its business.
In addition to these, two Portuguese startups have closed deals with EDP: Loqr, a cybersecurity company that is a specialist in identity certification, and Jungle Ai, a specialist in artificial intelligence and developing predictive maintenance projects with EDP.
"This year's edition of Free Electrons was a real success. We have found startups with enormous potential to help us stay on the cutting edge of the energy revolution. With them, we develop projects that will take innovation to another level, and we invest in startups with a lot of potential," emphasizes Luís Manuel, manager of EDP Inovação.
The utilities highlight the work of the winning startup, which is revolutionizing Bangladesh's energy market: SOLshare has developed and markets products that are installed in homes with distributed generation systems such as solar panels that allow for the transaction of energy credits between homes.
These solutions will be installed in more than 5,000 homes in Bangladesh, a country that has five million small solar home systems and more than 50 million people who do not yet have access to electricity.
"We feel very humble but at the same time glad to have won. Free Electrons was an intense experience of mutual learning. We want to thank everyone for believing in us. Our victory is a tribute to the people of Bangladesh for their resilience against all odds," says Sebastian Groh, CEO of SOLshare.
The Free Electrons 2018 edition has surpassed all of last year's numbers: 515 applications from 65 countries, two new utilities (American Electric Power and CLP), 15 finalist startups, more pilot projects and more investments.
About Free Electrons
The program was founded in 2017 by 8 utilities from 3 continents with the aim of creating synergies between the projects being developed by innovative startups from around the world and the companies that lead the electricity market. In this year's edition, two more multinationals joined up. In total, the 10 electric companies have more than 80 million customers spread across five continents.
Founding members of Free Electrons are AusNet Services (Australia), DEWA (Dubai), EDP (Portugal), ESB (Ireland), Innogy (Germany), Origin Energy (Australia), SP Group (Singapore) e Tokyo Electric Power Company (Japan). In this year's edition, American Electric Power (USA) and CLP (Hong Kong) joined the program, which is backed by the portuguese Beta-i.
The 15 finalist startups are Adaptricity (Switzerland), EQuota (China), Fresh Energy (Germany), Greenbird (Norway), GridCure (USA), GridWatch (Ireland), Howz (UK), Jungle.ai (Portugal), Kinsensum (USA), Loqr (Portugal), Orison, Relectrify (Australia), SOLshare (Bangladesh), Sterblue (France), Verv (UK).
The program began the 2018 edition with a boot camp in Lisbon where 30 startups participated, followed by the first module in Sydney, Australia, where the first pilot projects were developed. In the second module in Silicon Valley, partnerships between utilities and startups deepened, and the final result was presented in the third and last module in Berlin, powered by Innogy.