AEP to soon kick off accelerator program for early stage startups in the energy sector

by Wesley Brown ( 361 views 

American Electric Power (AEP), one of the nation’s largest power companies, has launched a new strategic initiative to identify promising entrepreneurs and early and growth stage companies to help the Columbus, Ohio-based utility giant identify promising new technologies and innovative ideas in the energy sector.

AEP said recently it has partnered with fellow Columbus-based innovation startup L Marks to launch IlluminationLAB, an accelerator program that will focus on customer experience, grid optimization, efficiency, operations and maintenance, and electric mobility and electrification. The partners will also consider other innovative ideas that don’t fit those themes, officials said.

“AEP’s IlluminationLAB is designed to combine industry insight and learnings with the perspective and technologies of talented startups from around the world. We are particularly interested in products and solutions focused on renewable energy resources, smart connected devices, customer engagement, predictive analytics and virtual assessments,” said Chris Johnson, director of AEP’s innovation and technology group. “We want to lead the utility industry in building the future of energy for the benefit of our customers.”

AEP, which announced the program in late February, closed its application period on March 24 after L Marks completed a global talent search to find promising early stage startups in the energy sector to submit applications. The most compelling submissions will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to AEP executives and stakeholders on May 14, with the cohort starting June 17.

If selected for the IlluminationLAB, tech startups will work directly with an AEP mentor and industry experts for 10 weeks to help advance and shape their idea or technology. They will be given access to working space, potential funding and the chance to develop products, platforms and processes that will help AEP expand its technology-driven offerings and processes. In addition, the startups will have the opportunity to further develop their companies alongside leading subject matter experts in the energy sector.

AEP is the parent company of Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), which provides electricity to utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, east Texas and the Texas panhandle. Also last month, AEP announced a deal to acquire 724 megawatts (MW) of operating wind generation and battery assets for nearly $1.06 billion from San Diego-based Sempra Renewable. That deal came about six months after AEP and SWEPCO canceled the $4.5 billion Wind Catcher project that was approved by Arkansas regulators.

Companywide, AEP has announced a plan to cut its carbon dioxide emissions 60% from 2000 emission levels by 2030 and 80% from 2000 emission levels by 2050. The Ohio-based utility giant said it is developing a more balanced portfolio of power generation to help achieve those targets with its generation capacity declining from 70% coal-fueled in 2005 to 47%.