IBM, VELCO Partner On Grid Software Startup

Feb 24, 2017

IBM and the Vermont Electric Power Company have teamed up to form a new technology company to help manage the electricity grid.

VELCO Vice President Kerrick Johnson says the combination of extreme weather events and the explosive growth in renewable energy has created the need for new software for utilities and grid operators.

“We reached out and partnered with IBM research and together we have co-created grid management software that is demonstrably proven to be the most powerful and accurate wind and solar generation forecasts in the world,” Johnson said in an interview. “In addition, it has enabled us to be incredibly more accurate with regards to our demand forecasting: How much energy do we need in a day or two days?”

The new company is called Utopus Insights and it will be located in Valhalla, New York. VELCO CEO Tom Dunn is chairman of the Utopus Insight board of directors. Chandu Visweswariah, an IBM research fellow, is president and CEO of the new company.

"The energy industry is at the confluence of disruptive technological and economic trends like the growth of digitization, renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles," Visweswariah said in a prepared statement. "With an experienced and talented team, field-proven technology, industry partners and a broad patent portfolio, Utopus Insights is an advantaged startup."

VELCO operates the Vermont electric transmission grid and it’s owned by Vermont’s electric utilities. Johnson said Vermont utility customers do not risk losing money on the venture, but they could see financial benefits if the company succeeds.

“We have no delusions as to how difficult it can be for a startup company to really take off and be successful. But if it is successful, that could bring tremendous value back to the state of Vermont,” he said.