The Download: More companies with smart grid in mind


GridWise Alliance’s Jim Morrozzi is promoting a smart grid. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For Capital Business)

Tablets and smartphones. Electric vehicles. Big-screen TVs. The number of products that need to plug into electrical outlets has soared over the years, placing greater demand on infrastructure that has not kept pace.

More companies are branding themselves as proponents of “smart grid,” a concept that marries communications to the delivery of power to better distribute demand.

Jim Morozzi represents 138 of those firms, including local players such as energy software makers Opower and GridPoint, as chief executive of the GridWise Alliance. Though its roots stretch back to 2003, the still-lean organization hired Morozzi in July as the first full-time executive.

Capital Business caught up with Morozzi as the industry prepares for GridWeek, a smart grid conference hosted in the District from Sept. 12 - 15. Here are excerpts from that conversation:

What is the alliance’s mission?

Our job is to try to make sure people understand what a smart grid is and why it’s important to try to transform the electric system in the U.S. The electrical system was build for the industrial age. Now [it] needs to be built for the information age.

GridWise membership has grown quickly of late. Why?

There are more people involved in that ecosystem right now. There’s much more happening just in terms of the various states. There’s almost a bit of a groundswell happening around smart grid today.

What issues are you advocating?

We’re in the process of trying to quantify some of the benefits of smart grid so we can share that with regulators at the state level. We’re also actively engaged with discussions around cyber security and interoperability.

With a membership as varied as GridWise’s — telecom companies, utilities, academics, etc. — are interests always aligned?

In most cases interests are aligned, but as you can imagine there are situations where they’re not.Where there is very strong commonality and commonness of purpose is the need to transform the grid for the greater good going forward.

VENTURE AUTHORITY

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) last week named the nine-member authority that will oversee the early stages of InvestMaryland, his flagship initiative to funnel millions in state dollars to start-ups.

A scaled-back version of the program cleared the General Assembly earlier this year and could raise at least $70 million for startups after the state auctions off $100 million worth of tax credits to insurance companies at a reduced rate.

MedImmune Chief Executive Peter Greenleaf was tapped to head the board that will first select a third party to conduct the auction, and then pick the venture capital firms and other financiers who will invest a portion of the money.

“The process that the state went through building the legislation and setting up the authority recognizes that there needs to be third party input into how these investments are made,” Greenleaf said.

The board will identify industries that are prime for investment as well as the ideal mix of deals in both size and company stage, Greenleaf added. The MedImmune venture arm that he helms will not seek InvestMaryland funds, he said.

Also appointed by the governor were:

— Goodloe E. Byron Jr., founder and president, Potomac Investment Services.

— Brian Darmody, associate vice president of research and economic development, University of Maryland.

— Gina Dubbe, managing partner and co-founder, Walker Ventures.

— Michael J. Howard, founder and chairman, MJH Group.

— Andrew Jones, vice president of corporate strategy, High Street Partners.

— Elizabeth Good Mazhari, director of ventures, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

— Michael G. Miller, principal, The Arundel Group.

— S. Tien Wong, chief executive, Lore Systems.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.

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