A private equity firm backed by some of the world’s largest utilities has raised $681 million to finance startups developing clean-energy technology.

Energy Impact Partners LP, which represents giants including Southern Co., National Grid Plc and AGL Energy Ltd., has already invested more than $200 million in companies like Advanced Microgrid Solutions LLC, AutoGrid Systems Inc. and Tendril Networks Inc. The amount raised includes up to $150 million in U.S. Small Business Administration loans, according to a statement Wednesday.

Utilities are trying to capture future industry growth amid stagnant electricity demand and a rise in technologies that give customers more control over their energy use. Utilities disclosed about $6.8 billion in venture capital, private equity and merger and acquisition deals in 2017, Bloomberg NEF estimates.

“We are helping them future-proof their business,” Chief Executive Officer Hans Kobler said in an interview. “This is a difficult landscape and as utilities prepare for that, they need to look for what’s coming down the pike and we serve as their eyes and ears for them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Chediak in San Francisco at mchediak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Ryan at jryan173@bloomberg.net, Margot Habiby, Catherine Traywick


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