Iberdrola wants start-ups to revolutionise grid

  • June 14, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Spanish utility Iberdrola is looking for start-ups that can revolutionise the electricity grids of the future.

The challenge has been launched within the framework of the new smart grid innovation centre, the Global Smart Grids Innovation Hub, which aims to become a benchmark in smart grids through open collaboration and coworking between technicians from the Iberdrola group’s electricity distribution company (i-DE), suppliers, start-ups and different organisations from all over the world.

The energy company wants to find through its Perseo start-up programme new materials, designs, manufacturing and construction methods for electrical substations and high-voltage lines.

The company has more than 1.2 million kilometres of power lines in the USA, Brazil, UK and Spain. 

Electricity grids are the circulatory system of the new energy model and an essential platform for the transition to a decarbonised economy. Iberdrola is therefore going one step further and looking for companies to develop more sustainable grids. Through its international start-up programme Perseo, it has launched a competition for companies to propose ideas to improve electrical substations and very high voltage lines.

The electricity system is undergoing a transformation and the grids have become a cornerstone of the energy transition; an essential platform for moving towards a decarbonised economy, which favours the development of an electricity system with more renewable sources, sustainable mobility, smart cities and self-consumption.

This initiative is part of Iberdrola’s commitment to combat climate change and promote sustainability. The objectives are to optimise the cost of materials and the methods applied, reduce the environmental impact of the construction of new assets in electricity grids, optimise the cost and time associated with civil works and assembly, and increase the safety and risk prevention of assembly processes.

Iberdrola will thus seek formulas for its network of transmission and distribution power lines. Its network consists of more than 4500 high to medium voltage substations and more than 1.6 million medium to low voltage distribution transformers serving more than 32 million electricity supply points.

Proposals that optimise the use of materials in projects – for example, in metallic structures – and civil works, formulas that replace the use of current materials with more sustainable ones, that reduce plant suppression, that contribute to the improvement of soils and to the safety of operations by reducing human intervention, among other initiatives, will be evaluated.

In addition, the company could offer the participant the opportunity to scale up the technology by adopting it through commercial agreements or even by investing in the participating company. The winner will be announced in July.

Since its creation in 2008, Perseo has invested more than €100m in start-ups that develop technologies and business models, focusing on those that improve the sustainability of the energy sector through further electrification and decarbonisation of the economy.

The programme has focused its activities on analysing business opportunities and technological collaboration with start-ups and emerging companies around the world, analysing 300 companies each year and creating an ecosystem of almost 7000 entrepreneurial companies. This investment instrument currently holds a portfolio of eight companies.

Through Perseo, Iberdrola carries out more than 25 real tests of technologies per year, which serve as a first step towards establishing a commercial relationship or partnership with start-ups. In addition, in the past two years the group has launched fourteen challenges in which 700 start-ups have participated.

Beyond the financial contribution, Perseo’s support to these companies has been key in defining their product and business, offering them its knowledge and access to Iberdrola’s market. On the other hand, the work carried out with the start-ups has served Iberdrola as a technological antenna to find out where the sector is heading.