The collaboration will help Amperon's energy sector clients to "successfully navigate the evolving grid to improve reliability, optimize asset economics, and accelerate decarbonization." Photo via amperon.co

Amperon has announced that it is replatforming its AI-powered energy analytics technology onto Microsoft Azure.

The collaboration will help Amperon's energy sector clients to "successfully navigate the evolving grid to improve reliability, optimize asset economics, and accelerate decarbonization," according to the company.

"This collaboration with Microsoft marks a significant step forward in our mission to modernize energy data and AI infrastructure. By replatforming our technology onto Microsoft Azure and enabling our customers to use Microsoft's analytics stack with our data, we aim to empower users to make informed decisions as they navigate the energy transition," Abe Stanway, CTO of Amperon, says in the news release.

Amperon, which announced last fall that it closed its series B round at $20 million, created a platform that provides AI modeling and forecasting methodologies critical to decision making as energy companies decarbonize amid the evolving energy transition. The combined technology and tools will only enhance the user experience with modern data capabilities, per the release

"We are pleased to collaborate with Amperon to enable our customers with a scalable data analytics platform for forecasting – one of the most essential ingredients to managing an increasingly complex energy grid. Together, we will drive energy solution advancements and contribute to a more sustainable future," adds Hanna Grene of Microsoft.

Energy tech platform Amperon raised $20 million. Photo via Amperon.co

Houston-based, AI-powered electricity analytics company raises $20M series B

funds secured

A Houston startup has raised $20 million in its latest round of funding in order to accelerate its energy analytics and grid decarbonization technology.

Amperon Holdings Inc. announced today that it closed its series B round at $20 million. Energize Capital led the round and the D. E. Shaw group, Veriten, and HSBC Asset Management, an existing investor, joined in on the round. Additionally, two of Amperon's early customers, Ørsted and another strategic utility partner, participated in the series B, which brought Amperon’s total funding to $30 million.

The fresh funding will support the company in evolving its platform that conducts electricity demand forecasting to a comprehensive data analytics solution. Amperon's solution has an opportunity to really impact the industry's "increasingly turbulent power grids worldwide" among climate change and rapid adoption of variable energy resources, like wind and solar, the company explains in a news release about its raise.

“The energy transition is creating unprecedented market volatility, and Amperon is uniquely positioned to help market participants better navigate the transitioning grid – both in the U.S. and as we expand globally,” Sean Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon, says in the release. “We've already established ourselves as the premier provider of electricity demand forecasting software. With this funding, we are poised to leverage our cutting-edge AI models to enable customers to unlock more value from data and asset optimization, spanning from on-site solar to commercial load management with backup generation and microgrid deployment.”

With the round, Energize Capital Partner Tyler Lancaster joins the Amperon board of directors.

“Today’s electricity grid is facing uniquely modern challenges as we work to rapidly transform our energy assets and decarbonize our economy,” he says in the release. “To facilitate the energy transition – a multitrillion-dollar market opportunity — we need more software tools custom-built to handle the complexities of our evolving energy markets.

"Amperon’s AI-powered analytics platform is exactly that, providing the accuracy and sophistication necessary for energy players across the value chain to manage their energy use and streamline our collective pathway to net-zero," he continues. "After getting to know Sean and the Amperon team since inception, Energize is thrilled to officially partner with them as a lead investor in this funding.”

In the past two years, Amperon reports that it grew revenue by five times, as well as quadrupled its team. The company was founded in 2017 and raised its $7 million series A last year.

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3 Houston sustainability startups score prizes at Rice University pitch competition

seeing green

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil's $60B acquisition gets FTC clearance — with one condition

M&A moves

ExxonMobil's $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission, but the former CEO of Pioneer was barred from joining the new company's board of directors.

The FTC said Thursday that Scott Sheffield, who founded Pioneer in 1997, colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ to potentially raise crude oil prices. Sheffield retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, served as CEO from 2021 to 2023, and continues to serve on the board. Since Jan. 1, he has served as special adviser to the company’s chief executive.

“Through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications while at Pioneer, Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” according to the FTC. It proposed a consent order that Exxon won't appoint any Pioneer employee, with a few exceptions, to its board.

Dallas-based Pioneer said in a statement it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing of the merger, which was announced in October 2023.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe that the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “disappointing that FTC is making the same mistake they made 25 years ago when I warned about the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1999.”

Schumer and 22 other Democratic senators had urged the FTC to investigate the deal and a separate merger between Chevron and Hess, saying they could lead to higher prices, hurt competition and force families to pay more at the pump.

The deal with Pioneer vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin, a huge oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.