Grok Ventures backs renewable energy startup gridmo in $500,000 pre-Seed raise

- October 9, 2023 2 MIN READ
gridmo cofounders Jarman Stephens and Damien Vermeer

A renewable energy software startup to emerge out of the Startmate program has raised $500,000 in its first external round.

Power systems engineers Jarman Stephens and Damien Vermeer cofounded gridmo earlier this year to fast track renewable energy grid connection studies. It was built to MVP in Startmate’s summer 23 cohort.

The raise was led by the Cannon-Brookes family fund, Grok Ventures, which chipped in 80% of the $500k round.

As Australia’s energy network transitions to renewable power, the software startup is addressing a a major log jam in the grid connection process by offering a standardised software solution to complete grid connection studies.

It can take up to two years currently for a single renewable energy project to connect with the grid and as more renewable projects coming online, that wait is expected to increase further under the current systems.

Jarman Stephens said that since gridmo launched just over six months ago, they have already onboarded five companies that have used the platform to help connect grid-scale solar farms, wind farms and batteries nationally.

“Last year Australia connected approximately 3GW to the grid,” he said.

“However, Australia has over 100GW of generators in the queue to get connected – and needs another 100GW to complete its energy transition. At this rate Australia will take over 50 years to complete its energy transition.”

For perspective, 3GW is roughly the capacity of Australia’s largest coal-fired power station Origin Energy’s Eraring, which is slated to close in 2025. Last month the NSW government announced it was in talks with Origin about extending the life of the plant to ensure adequate energy supply over the next few years.

Renewable energy projects are required to model their impact on the grid to help avoid failures such as blackouts). That analysis is then submitted to utilities and AEMO, the energy market operator, to obtain a grid connection agreement and connect to Australia’s National Electricity Market.

Damien Vermeer said connecting renewables into the grid isn’t as easy as plugging an appliance into the wall.

“Engineers currently write, run and maintain bespoke scripts to simulate tomorrow’s grid,” he said.

“This practice was built for a grid containing a handful of large coal and gas generators – not the sheer number of renewable generators now needed. This problem is compounded by a significant shortage of power systems engineers to complete the work required to connect this volume of new renewable energy projects.”

The consequence, Vermeer explained, is that grid connection studies for a single solar or wind farm can take years and cost millions of dollars.

“We’re on a mission to reduce the time and cost of grid connection studies by an order of magnitude and help connect more than 10 GW to the grid by 2028, enough to power 7 million home,” he said.

Grok Ventures CEO Jeremy Kwong-Law said the investment is an example of the VC’s focus on climate tech to solve decarbonisation challenges.

“Accelerating grid connections is one of the most important challenges we face in decarbonising our grid,” he said.

“The team at gridmo are making the modelling requirements for these connections more streamlined and collaborative. We’re excited to back the team at gridmo who are experts in their field.”

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