Today in Cleantech

General Electric and its venture capital partners have announced the winners of the $63 million second round of its Ecomagination Challenge — you know, the one that was focused on “home energy technology.” But anyone who thought that meant a lot of home energy management dashboard and networking companies were going to be getting funded would be sorely mistaken. Instead, the 10 startups that won a piece of that $63 million represent a grab-bag of technologies and business plans, some only tangentially connected to the home. A few — such as residential solar installer/financier SunRun, household voltage corrector and energy saver VPhase, or  electric vehicle wireless charging tech vendor WiTricity  — could directly serve homeowners. Two others — ZigBee chip-maker Ember and low-power, long-range wireless tech vendor On-Ramp Wireless — fall into a broader category of smart grid communications. GMZ Energy makes solar waste heat recovery systems, and green building and design firm Project Frog mainly designs schools and public buildings. Nuventix makes air-cooling systems for LEDs, and Viridity Energy makes software that controls virtual power plant smart grid architectures at the campus or system-wide level. All of these technologies could apply to the home someday, though I don’t believe that’s really part of the business plan for these startups. To my eye, the oddest choice as a winner is Hara, the energy and carbon accounting software company that serves corporate and government clients. But then, we’ve got to remember that GE and its venture partners, including co-funders in this round Kleiner Perkins, Foundation Capital and RockPort Capital, have their own interests in mind — and sticking to anyone’s preconceived notion of what a list of “home energy technology” should and shouldn’t include probably isn’t one of them.

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