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GE, VC firms invest $55 million in smart grid technology

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GE and venture capital firms invest $55 million in smart grid technology, from grid storage to utility security to energy management software and EV infrastructure.

General Electric and its venture capital partners on Tuesday announced that they would collectively invest $55 million in smart grid technology companies.

The investment -- which involves VC firms Foundation CapitalKleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Emerald Technology Ventures and RockPort Capital -- comes as part of the company's $200 million "Ecomagination Challenge," and is the first of several rounds of innovation funding intended to accelerate the development and deployment of power grid technology.

GE sees technologies such as energy storage, utility security, energy management software and electric vehicle charging services as the way to a smarter power grid.

More importantly, GE expects these markets to grow into a $20 billion opportunity by 2015.

Twelve projects have been selected for partnerships that will hopefully go commercial.

Here's a list:

ClimateWell

Located in Stockholm, Sweden. The company specializes in energy-efficient cooling and heating systems that run on solar-powered hot water rather than electricity, reducing power consumption and carbon emissions. Applications include hospitals, commercial buildings and areas where GE does appliances business.

Consert

Located in Raleigh, N.C. The company specializes in demand-side energy management software and services for utilities, municipalities and co-ops to manage load curtailment, increase operations efficiency and act as a virtual power plant. The company's technology complements GE Digital Energy's existing products.

FMC-Tech

Located in Shannon, Ireland. The company specializes in intelligent sensor technology, and offers a power line monitoring system for medium voltage networks serves as a nervous system for the smart grid. It has applications for GE's Smart Grid Delivery Optimization.

Columbia University Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science

Located in New York, N.Y. The school has been working on electric vehicle charging technology, and a collaboration with GE, Columbia, FedEx Express and utility Con Edison seeks to convert hydrocarbon to electric delivery vehicles in New York City. Specifically, Columbia's tech manages load and delivery and links electrical vehicle charging stations to the utility's electric distribution management system in real-time.

JouleX

Located in Atlanta, Ga. The company specializes in energy management software for the datacenter, offering a single, network-based, energy-management package that monitors, analyzes and automatically adjusts the energy usage of a network's connected devices and systems. It has the potential to reduce energy consumption by 30 to 60 percent, and will complement GE's datacenter energy reduction efforts.

OPOWER

Located in Arlington, Va. The company specializes in home energy management software that integrates consumer demographics, energy consumption data and behavioral analytics to encourage households to make better choices about power consumption. The company's products complement GE's smart metering and AMI businesses.

Scientific Conservation

Located in San Francisco, Calif. The company specializes in energy management software for commercial buildings, and offers a platform that monitors and manages energy drift in commercial buildings through predictive maintenance of core energy systems: heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, lighting, controls and renewable sources. The software has applications for GE's Intelligent Platforms building management software business.

SecureRF

Located in Westport, Conn. The company specializes in utility security around lower-powered embedded devices on the smart grid. Its flagship product, the Algebraic Eraser, is a public-key cryptography method designed for resource-constrained devices like meters and sensors. GE's Digital Energy business is interested.

Sentient Energy

Located in Burlingame, Calif. The company specializes in intelligent sensor tech, specifically for power grid monitoring for cost-effective distribution automation. GE Energy's Digital Energy group is interested.

Soladigm

Located in Milpitas, Calif. The company specializes in building efficiency, and offers window technology that electronically changes glass from clear to tinted and offering a way to control internal heat and thus reduce energy usage for HVAC systems by 25 percent. Many applications for GE here, from green homes to hospitals.

SustainX

Located in West Lebanon, N.H. The company specializes in energy storage -- specifically, isothermal, compressed-air energy storage technology for more cost effective, grid-scale energy storage. Collaboration opportunities include GE's Global Research Center and GE Energy.

SynapSense

Located in Folsom, Calif. The company specializes in datacenter services, using a robust wireless sensor network to measure and manage the environmental conditions and power usage in datacenters to reduce overall energy energy consumption for enterprise-class data centers by 10 percent. Applications: GE's Digital Energy and Intelligent Platforms businesses.

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Andrew Nusca

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Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure