CalSEED Program Funding Reauthorized by the California Energy Commission

June 09, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact

Lindsey Roark – lindsey.roark@newenergynexus.com – (661) 313-0618

 

Oakland, CA – The California Energy Commission (CEC) announced today that it has reauthorized funding for the California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) program through 2025. CalSEED is funded through the CEC’s EPIC program which invests approximately $120M annually for innovative clean energy technologies and approaches benefiting the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities. Through the CalSEED initiative $25M will be deployed to back over 80 startups in coming years.

 

“The CALSEED program has been successful in helping entrepreneurs working on promising climate solutions to get the support they need to scale up,” said David Hochschild, Chairman of the CEC. “The Energy Commission is proud to partner with New Energy Nexus with the next round of CALSEED funding and to help these innovators bring new clean energy technologies to life.”

 

Over the past 5 years, CalSEED has successfully funded 4 cohorts of entrepreneurs developing break-through technologies for California in the Concept ($150,000) and Prototype ($450,000) stage through non-dilutive funding up to $600,000.  In 2020 for the fourth cohort, 28 companies were selected for an award. Since 2017 a total of 97 start-ups have received around $20M.

 

The CalSEED program is designed to incubate key energy innovations across the “valleys of death” and readies them for equity investment and full-scale commercialization. Several CalSEED awardees have proven this model successful by raising large sums of money in seed round investing, including Cuberg and Coreshell from CalSEED’s 3rd cohort and Gridware from the 4th cohort, who just last month raised $5.3M for their wildfire prevention technology.

 

“Without CalSEED, we would have spent a significant amount of time for fundraising that would have distracted the team from focusing on developing our technology and refining it with our early customers,” said Cheng Jin of Powerflex, a software company that enables workplaces to support mass EV charging using renewable energy and was acquired by EDF Renewables in 2019. “The availability of a moderate amount of funding in the early stage of a technology startup is so critical as it could very well mean the difference between continuing forward and closing shop.”

 

CalSEED’s approach starts with ‘social equity in, social equity out’, by which we encourage a diverse pool of applicants and equitable clean energy solutions that are accessible to everyone. Nearly $9M have been awarded to entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups through the program. ReJoule, a cleantech startup that designs and builds battery diagnostics to enhance performance of lithium batteries and founded by a brother and sister from an immigrant family, is one of them.

 

“I love how the program encourages diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Zora Chung, Co-Founder of ReJoule, a company from the second CalSEED cohort. “If we are to truly enable the clean energy transition, we need to be aware of the impact we have on communities that have historically been left behind or bear the brunt of the impact of climate change.”

 

Launched in 2016, CalSEED was created to accelerate California’s clean energy goals, serving as a key avenue for economic development by backing diverse entrepreneurs to succeed in technology creation and commercialization. Through the EPIC fund, the CEC has effectively spawned a new innovation pipeline with CalSEED providing the first stage in the ecosystem for early-stage clean energy entrepreneurs looking to advance their concept or prototype. Other elements of the ecosystem include the four innovation clusters – the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Fresno’s Bluetech Valley, Southern California Energy Innovation Network and Berkeley’s Cyclotron Road – and the CalTestBed initiative with the University of California for prototype evaluation.

 

After the challenges presented in 2020, an important component of ‘social equity out’ is ensuring that “continued CalSEED funding supports a swift and equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by empowering cleantech founders to upskill and employ workers to build back better,” said Mariah Lichtenstern, member of CalSEED’s Technical Review Committee. “The New Deal of our era must have environmental and social governance at the center.”

 

CalSEED’s reauthorization comes at a pivotal time for climate policy within not only California but the US, as the Biden administration’s ambitious goals highlight the need for early-stage startups.

 

“Reauthorizing EPIC and now CalSEED demonstrates California’s continued commitment to clean energy,” said Erik Stokes, Chief of the Energy Deployment and Market Facilitation Office at the CEC. “We don’t have all the technology solutions we need to address climate change. And there’s a number of clean energy technology solutions that are commercial but still cost prohibitive for most of the population. Innovation can help solve these issues.”

 

“CalSEED is advancing new, clean energy technologies that have the potential to move the needle on California achieving its carbon reduction and climate goals,” says Kristin Larson, Project Manager from Center for Sustainable Energy. “We are proud to be members of the CalSEED Technical Review Committee since 2016 as the project has been a successful incubator for new, clean energy technologies that enhance resiliency and push California into a future of decarbonized communities.”

 

“Of the first $20M we put $9M into under-represented founder teams to build the business that will get California to 100% clean energy. In the next 3 years we want to increase this ratio and spread the benefits of ownership, leadership and wealth-building that these companies represent to more Californians as well as the benefits of clean, low cost, climate friendly energy services” said Danny Kennedy, CEO of New Energy Nexus. “We thank the CEC for the opportunity. Shine on!”

 

About CalSEED

CalSEED is and early-stage grant fund and accelerator for startups. It is an initiative made possible by the California Energy Commission. With this re-authorization the CalSEED initiative will provide $25M to support innovators working on early-stage clean energy concepts. CalSEED is a program of New Energy Nexus. For more information, please go to ​calseed.fund

 

About New Energy Nexus

New Energy Nexus is a non-profit international organization that strives towards an abundant world with a 100% clean energy economy for 100% of the population in the shortest time possible. To achieve this goal, we support diverse clean energy entrepreneurs with funds, accelerators and networks. We started in California and now operate programs in New York, China, India, Southeast Asia and East Africa. For more information, please go to ​newenergynexus.com​

 

About the California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is leading the state to a 100 percent clean energy future. It has seven core responsibilities: developing renewable energy, transforming transportation, increasing energy efficiency, investing in energy innovation, advancing state energy policy, certifying thermal power plants, and preparing for energy emergencies. For more information, please go to ​energy.gov.ca​