Silver Spring to acquire energy data startup Detectent

Smart grid networking company Silver Spring Networks announced on Wednesday that it plans to acquire startup Detectent, which has developed data analytics for utilities. Utilities have slowly been adopting data tools over the years, from companies like Opower, C3, Silver Spring and others, to help manage their smart meter data, engagement with customers, energy efficiency programs, grid reliability and protection from theft.

Silver Spring Networks said it would spend $12 million in cash on the deal, which will close this quarter, and the acquisition is estimated to be neutral to earnings this year but accretive next year. Silver Spring has been working with Detectent as a partner since May 2014.

GreenNet 2011: Katie Fehrenbacher - Editor Earth2Tech, GigaOM; David Crane - CEO and President, NRG Energy; Eric Dresselhuys - EVP and CMO, Silver Spring Networks

A conversation with David Crane, CEO and President, NRG Energy and Eric Dresselhuys, EVP and CMO, Silver Spring Networks

Silver Spring’s stock dropped slightly on the news this morning and is down just under 1 percent at $7.28 per share. Silver Spring went public at $17 per share in 2013.

The company’s stock sank considerably over the past year due to issues like a delay in closing several big utility deals — the company is dependent on securing large many-year deals from utilities, and these deals can be difficult to get and close in a predictable manner. For the nine months ended September 30, 2014, Silver Spring generated revenue of $113.88 million, compared to $229.69 million for the same period in 2013. Net loss over the same period grew to $89.67 million in 2014, up from a loss of $67.17 million in 2013.

Companies selling smart grid services to utilities are racing to develop and acquire the best data analytics tools out there. Grid company EnerNOC acquired Pulse Energy last month. Data analytics company Tendril recently teamed up with solar giant SunPower as an investor and a partner. After a decade of discussion about the “smart grid,” energy companies are finally becoming data companies.

SunPower backs Tendril & plans to use its energy software

Decade-old energy company Tendril has struck an important deal with giant solar panel maker and project developer SunPower, the companies announced on Monday. SunPower has invested $20 million of growth capital into Tendril and has licensed Tendril’s energy software for solar data-related services.

Tendril started out life by building a platform to connect wireless sensors with an emphasis on ZigBee, and as the company grew it started to look for problems that its platform could solve, like building automation. Eventually it started focusing on smart meters and home energy management. For a long time, Tendril focused on utility customers and a few years ago bought Grounded Power, a startup that used behavioral science to create customer engagement for utilities (similar to what Opower’s original software does).

SunPower California solar ranch

In 2012, with a still early and pretty competitive market around home-energy software, Tendril went through a shakeup and did a substantial round of layoffs. But as Tendril stabilized, some like Smart Grid News’ Jesse Berst predicted that Tendril could now finally be positioned for substantial growth, as the market had been growing significantly for home energy software and Tendril has been an early mover in new ways to use energy data.

So it looks like the booming solar market could be part of that recovery, and Tendril’s new growth strategy. Both Tendril and Opower have recently expressed interest in teaming up with solar companies.

Solar was the second largest source of new electricity in the U.S. (behind natural gas) for the first three quarters of 2014, according to a recent report from SEIA. Tendril will be able to use SunPower’s solar data to develop its platform for solar-related services for utilities and other energy service providers, according to the release.

Austin's 's Pecan Street Project. Photo courtesy of Pecan Street Inc.

Austin’s ‘s Pecan Street Project. Photo courtesy of Pecan Street Inc.

Solar companies have been eager to both build and acquire energy data products to help manage solar panels on the grid, and to help solar customers engage with their solar systems more. SunPower makes its own panels, it manages large solar panel farms for utilities and commercial companies, and it also has a growing business around leasing solar panels for homes.

SunPower launched this residential solar leasing program in 2011 and it provided a bright spot of revenue for the company during the more difficult times in the manufacturing downturn. SunPower is now looking to grow that residential leasing program substantially and recently has started to focus on owning the relationship directly with the residential customer. SunPower has said it wants to be sort-of a Dell of solar, and the company is working on launching a new online retail portal and a new consumer marketing strategy.

I would guess that it’s SunPower’s new residential consumer solar strategy that is at the heart of the partnership with Tendril. With the funding from SunPower, Tendril has raised over $100 million, and other investors include Siemens Venture Capital, GE, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Good Energies, and RRE Ventures.

Mind you, Tendril does have a long history of announcing partnerships with big companies, like BMW, that tend not to move beyond a demonstration project. But this partnership involves a substantial investment as well as a licensing deal, so it sounds pretty significant. Competitors with Tendril include Opower, C3, Silver Spring Networks, Aclara and others.

VantagePoint curbs cleantech fund raising due to lack of interest

One of the most aggressive cleantech investors, VantagePoint Capital Partners, has stopped raising its more recent billion dollar cleantech fund. Why? Lack of interest from limited partners, the investors that put money into VC funds. And that’s been an ongoing trend.

Introducing a big data prediction engine for the power grid

AutoGrid, a startup that’s developed a big data analytics engine for energy, officially launched on Monday and unveiled its first product, and its first two customers. Picture if you took Netflix or Amazon’s recommendation engines and used them for utilities’ energy data.

Crunching energy data down to the fridge

A four-year-old startup called PlotWatt has developed smart algorithms that can crunch energy data down to the appliance level to determine which of your household devices is sucking up more than its fair share of power.

Tendril buys Recurve for energy analytics

Energy software company Tendril has snapped up intellectual property, employees and a San Francisco office from Recurve, the startup (formerly called Sustainable Spaces) which develops and sells software to help energy auditors determine the most cost-efficient energy efficiency measures for their customers.