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GE, VC firms invest $63 million in home energy tech; partner with Best Buy

GE, VC firms invest $63 million in home energy tech; partner with Best Buy

Posting in Energy

General Electric and several venture capital partners have invested $63 million in 10 home energy technology startups as part of the company's Ecomagination Challenge.

General Electric and several of its venture capital partners announced on Thursday that they have invested $63 million in 10 home energy technology startups as part of the company's Ecomagination Challenge.

The winners were picked from a pool of 5,000 submissions from 74,000 innovators, the company said.

The investment is the second phase of a $200 million campaign launched in July 2010, bringing the total invested to date to $134 million. The round was themed "Powering Your Home" -- the previous round was "Powering the Grid" -- and aims to support companies trying to improve household energy efficiency through new technologies.

The winners are as follows:

GE has also committed an additional $20 million to fund, scale and commercialize pilots with innovators from the challenge; the funds will be administered through a new "Ecomagination Innovation Council."

But more interesting is stirrings of expanding the challenge overseas.

GE said it and its VC partners plan to launch a region-specific Ecomagination challenge in China later this year. They also said they plan to establish a $5 million seed fund in Europe with British organization Carbon Trust to provide support for "early-stage ideas."

As if that's not enough, GE also awarded five companies with an "Innovation Award" for $100,000 to further develop new technology.

Those are:

  • E.quinox, London, U.K. A student-run solar and home solar financing initiative aiming to bring cost-effective, renewable energy to developing countries through off-grid, stand-alone photovoltaic systems.
  • PlotWatt, Durham, N.C. A communications and software startup that develops smart meter software that analyzes data to identify energy usage of appliances and provide customized recommendations for savings via a web dashboard, mobile applications, email and text message.
  • Pythagoras Solar, San Mateo, Calif. A building efficiency company offering solar window technology that saves and generates energy without sacrificing the appearance of a traditional window.
  • Suntulit, Freemont, Calif. Another building efficiency that's working on and air conditioning control system that uses data (room temperature, number of occupants of a room) to make recommendations to reduce utility bills by as much as 30 percent.
  • Xergy, Georgetown, Del. A building efficiency company focused on "green" compressors that can be used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems to reduce energy consumption by 65 percent.

To close the loop on commercialization, GE also said it inked a deal with electronics retail giant Best Buy to "fast-track" the commercial availability of two technologies in the list above: the VPhase home energy control device and the Suntulit air conditioning control system.

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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