Beyond just poles, wires, substations and power plants, Kevala’s Assessor Platform includes census tracks, transit analysis zones, socioeconomic indicators, wholesale energy pricing, and even weather data in order to help utilities understand and plan for a fully decarbonized energy system.Follow @JennRunyon
A group of investors are betting more than $21M that utilities, project developers, regulators policymakers and financial institutions will use Kevala’s tool to make better decisions about how to plan for a net-zero future.
Today, Kevala is announcing its Series A funding round generated $21 million.
The round was led by C5 Impact Partners LP (C5 Capital’s fund focused on data-driven technologies transforming critical infrastructure) and Thin Line Capital. Additional investors in the Series A round include senior energy sector executives Tom Werner, current Chairman and former CEO of Sunpower Corp., and Mark Ferron, former California Public Utilities Commissioner.
What they are investing in
Aram Shumavon, CEO and Founder of Kevala said in an interview that he founded the company to address an issue that had been frustrating him. A market design economist, he said he spent a lot of his early career working at the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) on market design, resource adequacy and other similar issues. But the tools the regulatory body was using for decision-making were anything but adequate, said Shumavon.
“I was really exasperated with the lack of the tooling that we should have been using,” he said. As the organization was trying to plan for a high penetration of renewable energy, Shumavon said they were using Excel, “which really doesn’t seem super tightly coupled with the electric grid.”
Almost seven years later, his product, Kevala Assessor is ready for huge growth. The company employed 25 people at the start of the year and with the new funding Shumavon said he expects it to swell to 100 by year end.
The platform allows utilities to ask a lot of ‘What If’ questions, said Shumavon.
“What if EVs charge at a different time? What if every house adopts solar and only half of them adopt batteries…we can actually do that analysis. Not in the abstract, but actually hour-for-hour or minute-for-minute so we can really try to understand what does that mean,” he explained.
In a demo, Shumavon showed how the system could give a user an approximate value for a battery at a particular substation in California.
“Ok, so we just dynamically queried wholesale energy prices at the first alphanumeric order substation in California, and we took a 1-MW/ 4-MWh battery and we optimized against wholesale energy prices in the day-ahead market. Roundtrip efficiency of 10% associated with inverter losses, and it gives you some idea of the value of that battery,” he explained, showing how the exact same battery would be worth more at a different substation in Southern California Edison territory.
The census track data coupled with the transit analysis can be used to help understand likely EV adoption and could assist utilities in distribution planning.
“When we incorporate transit analysis information, we calculate vehicle miles traveled, you get a distribution of vehicle miles traveled, typical arrival time, departure time, and all of that information can be pushed into this modeling tool because essentially we have thousands of computers that we can throw at this analysis,” he said, adding that’s how a utility might “start to really understand what are the implications of high penetration EV adoption.”
Further, the system points to vulnerabilities in the grid that could benefit from increased cybersecurity.
Kevala’s leadership has insights into the industry that have been honed through decades of helping regulators and utilities solve critical issues. The team combines specific expertise in advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence with industry experience across utilities, regulators and power-systems engineering organizations. In addition to Shumavon, other senior leaders hail from organizations as diverse as ABB Network Management, Silver Spring Networks, Schneider Electric, the FERC and many other public institutions and private companies.
Former SunPower CEO Tom Werner is an advisor to and investor in the company and said in a press release that “with the proliferation of grid-connected solar, storage, and a range of other distributed energy resources, America’s energy infrastructure is rapidly evolving.”
Indeed, Shumavon said his company is driven by the urgent need to decarbonize the energy system to combat the worst of climate change and the risk of messing up electrification of transportation is not worth taking, he said.
“We are very motivated by trying to ensure that we are successful at radically decarbonizing the global economy as fast as possible and the electric grid is the best vehicle for that,” he said.