That is right up AutoGrid's alley. Total Energy Ventures, the Group's corporate venture capital arm, invested in the California start-up in the summer of 2016. Established in 2011, it is one of the most advanced in the world at managing the flexibility offered by assets in the home and by distributed and centralized power grids. "In this still-new and mostly North American market, the company's software solutions have been selling briskly to major energy customers," says Christophe Tonion, Senior Investment Manager at TEV. "Discussions with its executives moved quickly and we won them over by talking about the planned changes in Total's business model. This gave AutoGrid a preview of the opportunities for it in the responsible energy field."
The start-up's solutions are based on three areas of technical knowledge and expertise.
First, it collects and processes mountains of data from highly disparate objects such as production, storage and consumption units. The objects are a grab bag, ranging from solar panels and wind turbines to pumps, individual thermostats and batteries for different kinds of electric cars. This technology applies to all types of energy, whether based on fossil fuels or renewables.
Second, once the big data are collected in a continuous stream and linked via a database, AutoGrid develops algorithms to process it. Their ultimate function is to predict resource behavior and failures and anticipate needs, consumption and availability.
Next comes the phase of optimizing energy assets and their management. In other words, factoring in the specific technical and structural features of each connected object, to control the objects as tightly as possible and make the most of their flexibility.
Lastly, AutoGrid customers can opt to manage their own asset, depending on what they do and the kind of installed technology base they have.
"AutoGrid is a credible, promising start-up operating in ecosystems that are innovative for Total," says Christophe Tonion. "Since our acquisition of an interest in it this summer, the company has won several contracts, beating out big energy names, and grown the volume it manages from 0.5 gigawatts to almost 2 gigawatts. That's pretty impressive when you consider that the market leader is at six."