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VC Investors and Entrepreneurs Speak on Energy Storage

Energy storage is a real business and remains one of the clearest problems on the energy landscape.

Energy storage remains a missing piece of the modern electrical grid and a pain point for electric vehicles and portable power applications. Venture investors and entrepreneurs have been looking for opportunities in these sectors for a while now — and progress has been slow.

Moderator Greg Heibel, a partner at law firm Orrick and Orrick, hosted a panel today to look at policy, markets, and why new energy storage technologies have made so little impact to date.

Here are some of the panel’s observations:

Abe Yokell, Partner, RockPort Capital, gave the VC viewpoint. He noted that energy storage is hardly a monolithic category and that it contains very distinct sectors and use-cases. Within utility-scale, there’s ancillary services and bulk energy storage. Energy storage also comes in behind-the-meter enterprise flavors, as well as EV transportation and energy storage for consumer portables.

Rockport’s portfolio includes isothermal CAES firm SustainX, Li-ion battery management systems from Qnovo, and a firm still in stealth.

Yokell noted that the funding environment for cleantech and energy storage is challenging — many VC firms have allocated their funds to existing companies. And that means that seed funding and round A funding is going to be tough. Strategic investors, which have their own unique set of plusses and minuses, are playing a larger role and are sometimes leading later funding rounds.
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