Tuesday, February 21, 2017

California Funds Clean Energy Innovators

California clean energy and other clean-tech entrepreneurs benefit from a state that supports and promotes innovative new businesses.  California is the world leader for clean-tech and the state works hard to maintain this position.

The latest program to support early-stage clean energy entrepreneurs launched recently.

The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) initiative will provide $24 million in grants over five years to support innovators working on very early stage clean energy concepts. Awardees can receive up to $150,000 for proof of concept activities. The awardees will also have an opportunity to pitch at a business plan competition for an additional $450,000 in follow-on funding to continue demonstrating the potential merits of their technology.

Clean Tech Leadership Rankings 2010-2016
Source:  CleanEdge U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index

Funding for CalSEED comes from the California Energy Commission.   The first round of award applications is currently being evaluated.  The program will continue with additional funding rounds in coming years.

“This initiative will help entrepreneurs move their projects from an idea to the marketplace,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert Weisenmiller, “thereby helping to advance California’s transition to a clean energy future.”

CalSEED applicants can include individuals, businesses, non-profits and academic institutions
Source: CalSEED

The CalSEED program is managed by the California Clean Energy Fund, a private equity and venture capital firm specializing in early stage and startup companies.

“This level of funding is not typically available for pre-prototype or pre-revenue ideas,” said Deepa Lounsbury, CalSEED program manager. “By filling this critical gap and providing access to unprecedented professional development resources, we believe the program will help catalyze a new era of clean energy technologies.”

Joshua Croft of the Energy Commission staff gave an overview of the program when the Energy Commission approved the overall funding in 2016:  "The CalSEED Initiative will help develop California's next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs providing SEED funding as well as mentoring, technical consulting and business development services to support energy entrepreneurs and research teams in their quest to develop breakthrough solutions."

Croft described four goals of CalSEED:
  • First, to establish the technical merits and commercial potential of promising early stage energy  technology concepts that provide the greatest benefits to electric ratepayers in the IOU (Investor Owned Utility) service territories. 
  • Second, attract private sector interest and capital to clean energy innovations supported through the CalSEED Initiative. 
  • Third, encourage broad and diverse participation in the CalSEED Initiative from entrepreneurs and researchers throughout California. 
  • Fourth, ensure a fair, simplified, streamlined, and transparent process for identifying entrepreneurs and researchers through SEED support from the CalSEED Initiative.

The CalSEED application process is described in detail on their website CalSEED.fund

According to CalSEED, the program brings together entrepreneurial training organizations, nonprofits, companies, universities and an ecosystem of clean energy incubators who will provide technical expertise, mentoring, networking and business development support to applicants receiving funding.  New energy technologies require millions of dollars to reach commercialization. CalSEED will position entrepreneurs to demonstrate the potential merits of their technology and CalSEED’s network of professional development resources will prepare the entrepreneurs identify and take the correct steps to attract future private investment.

CalSEED builds on other early stage funding programs California has supported.  "(CalSEED) is going to help create the next generation of success stories," said Energy Commissioner David Hochschild.  "They're not all going to be success stories and .. as a state we have to  be comfortable with some level of risk. I think we are all comfortable with that, because at the end of the day you don't make gains without taking some bold bets. And I  think we've shown that this is paying off.  I mean, just looking at how many of the clean energy success stories are in the State have their roots in early funding from the Energy Commission."

CalSEED is managed by the California Clean Energy Fund and includes
many partners.  Source:  CalSEED

In addition to being managed by CalCEF, CalSEED works in partnership with a variety of entities, including Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Greenlining Institute, GrantFarm and the others shown in the above graphic.

CalSEED funding comes from the Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, which invests about $120 million annually for innovative clean energy technologies and approaches and that benefit the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities.

The application package for CalSEED funding can be found here.