IMC Newsdesk

Sparkmeter raises $12m to bring smart energy to underserved communities

  • September 14, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Washington start-up SparkMeter has closed a $12m series A financing round. The company provides grid management services, equipment and software that increase access to reliable electricity in underserved communities across Africa, Asia and the Americas.

This latest funding will let it launch a digital offering connecting smart grid data insights to business operations for large electricity distribution utilities in emerging markets.

The round was led by Clean Energy Ventures and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, alongside Goodwell Investments, in partnership with Alitheia Capital, Total Energy Ventures and other investors.

“The team at SparkMeter has developed disruptive, low-cost and highly impactful grid management, enabling utilities in developing countries to simultaneously improve electricity access and mitigate carbon emissions,” said Daniel Goldman, managing director of Clean Energy Ventures and SparkMeter board member. “Close to one billion people globally live without access to electricity while another billion have unreliable access, and we have an obligation to address this inequity sustainably and cost-effectively. Our team at Clean Energy Ventures believes that SparkMeter has the potential to mitigate over 2.5Gton of CO2e between now and 2050 if widely deployed.”

In emerging markets, microgrid and distribution utilities often struggle with electricity and revenue loss due to non-payment, load management difficulties and sub-optimal customer service. SparkMeter’s low-cost combination of patented two-way meter communication and smart grid software designed for hard-to-reach and low-consumption end users improves load management, customer services and billing. The company is operating in more than 25 countries with over 100,000 meters sold, with more locations added every day.

“The lack of access to reliable electricity is a major barrier to economic advancement and empowerment across the globe, and SparkMeter is enabling the deployment of smart grids in these markets to allow utilities to provide better service and thus operate more sustainably,” said Dan Schnitzer, co-founder and CEO of SparkMeter. “With SparkMeter’s new digital offering backed by the company’s proprietary technology, utilities can now go even further towards improving their operations with the market-leading data collection, advanced analytics and grid management tools we provide.”

Along with the latest round of financing, SparkMeter is launching Digital Solutions to help large incumbent distribution utilities digitalise their operations, assess areas for improvement and deploy customised algorithms to improve business performance. Many distribution utilities around the world have poor visibility into their distribution systems because they do not combine grid edge data with digital models to measure their performance.

Digital Solutions not only provides this visibility, the service goes further, enabling utilities to avoid system capital upgrades through customised services including non-wires alternatives such as distributed energy resources and load management.

As SparkMeter expands its market presence across Africa and Asia, its offering opens up opportunities for distribution utilities globally to improve their financial and environmental sustainability through the data analytics provided.

“With utility companies in developing countries struggling to provide power to their communities in a sustainable and profitable way, SparkMeter can assist them in responding to demand, providing greater power reliability and serving as a gateway to clean energy,” said Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “We’re excited about SparkMeter’s specialised grid management, which is well on its way to driving a step-change improvement in emerging markets over the next decade.”

SparkMeter was founded in 2013 and provides grid management tailored to emerging markets, where 2.1 billion people live without reliable electricity access. The plug-and-play offering enables microgrids and distribution utilities operating in remote locations to access a range of features – flexible billing, customer communications, and remote monitoring and control – that improve their operations and help them achieve financial sustainability.

“In Africa, equitable energy access is top of mind for many local communities, and therefore a growing focus for our uMunthu Fund,” said Mobola da-Silva, investment principal at Alitheia Capital, Goodwell Investments West Africa partner. “SparkMeter’s technology has the potential to revolutionise how we address electricity access in markets like Nigeria and Kenya. We are extremely pleased to be SparkMeter’s first major investor in Africa and look forward to supporting the company to expand and reach its business and social impact goals across the continent.”

SparkMeter has also received funding from Lateral Capital, Schmidt Family Foundation, Incite Capital, Powerhouse Fund, Shell Foundation, Factor[e], E8 Fund and others.