Looking for help to crystallize your cleantech idea into a commercial product that finds a ready market? In July, the utilities in the state launched a new initiative called CalNEXT to speed the pursuit of promising emerging technologies. “CalNEXT is a statewide initiative to identify, test, grow electric technologies and delivery methods to support California’s decarbonized future.” They will fund projects in the range of $20-400K to assess innovations and help shape them to fit product needs that have already been identified.
CalNEXT is run by Energy Solutions in Oakland, a 25-year old analytics firm that provides insights on markets, designs for programs to incentivize adoption of innovations, and assessments of the potential of clean technologies. Program Manager Casidee Kido and her colleague Erin Fitzgerald explained how CalNEXT works in our Perspectives session on December 15.
CalNEXT is funded by the ratepayers of the investor-owned utilities in the state (PG&E, SoCal Edison, SoCal Gas and San Diego G&E) and is intended to focus the efforts of energy-efficiency innovators to work on things that can have the most impact on reaching a decarbonized future and the most effective ways to market them. It is an outgrowth of the work of the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council created by the CEC with participation of all the investor-owned utilities plus SMUD and LADWP a dozen years ago. The idea of the ETCC was to encourage collaboration on RD&D among the utilities and to assure alignment of priorities with the CEC programs as well. As the innovation process evolved into one that involved a much broader set of entities, the ETCC added roles in increasing the visibility of ET resources and opportunities for engagement with ETCC members, along with strengthening the knowledge and capabilities of the ET community by sharing project results, methodologies, and collaboration opportunities. CalNEXT is the new way to achieve these goals and it comes at a great time with more money than ever being committed to clean tech deployment.
CalNEXT works through “Technology Priority Maps.” These are wish lists of innovations and market information the ETCC would like to see developed. They cover 6 technology groups and 46 families of innovations. The six are HVAC, lighting, plug loads/appliances, water heating, process loads, and whole -buildings. You can look at these here, and then dive into the details of the half-dozen or so technology families in each. Click on those and you get to specific innovations or market support projects the ETCC would like to see. You can then propose projects to address these needs each year. The current round will be open until February 23. The TPMs will be updated and probably adopted late in 2023, with applications then open in Q1 of 2024. Even if you are rejected, you can apply as many times as you like, and on multiple wish list items. To date CalNEXT has funded 35 projects totaling $14 million. At the end of each project, CalNEXT will provide help to connect companies to those in the utilities and elsewhere that can help on moving to demos and commercialization opportunities.
“CalNEXT will track and vet the efficacy and claims of these technologies, products, and solutions to assess and confirm their potential energy savings and operational performance, help estimate long-term cost-effectiveness, prioritize technologies with significant energy savings opportunities, and identify potential barriers to market adoption. CalNEXT is a great opportunity for programs to see their full potential, to get the evaluation and implementation support they need, and for good ideas to come to life and make major impacts to support California’s decarbonized future.”
This looks like a very helpful gateway to the kinds of connections and follow-on funding that innovators need. It is worth exploring even if you have been rebuffed on other programs. The vetting and evaluation process will be helpful in generating investor interest. The whole session is recorded and available.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart’s Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.