What makes SparkMeter the most innovative company in energy?

What makes SparkMeter the most innovative company in energy? 

This month, our team was awarded the recognition of the #1 Most Innovative Company in Energy by Fast Company. This achievement was built on years of foundational growth within the company, and in the markets that we operate in. Innovation can be shown not only in the technology we develop, but also through its application by our customers to solve under-served global challenges.

SparkMeter works every day to develop technology that fixes weak and broken grids. We want to see grids become decarbonized, resilient, and reliable and can take on investment to connect new users. We exist to help utilities and the customers they serve benefit from clean, reliable, and affordable energy to cook with, lights to study under, and the power to do whatever else they decide.

“We invested in SparkMeter because we believe that rapidly deployable technologies are needed to solve the world's most complex problems,” said Carmichael Roberts from Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Providing affordable grid management systems to utilities in emerging markets improves the quality of life for those on the front lines of climate change, accelerates global decarbonization, and supports local economies to boost job growth and financial sustainability.”

Because we specifically target the challenges and characteristics of emerging markets, we've been able to build sophisticated technology into a low-cost system that can be easily adopted and widely deployed quickly. With our systems in place, more places around the world will be able to accelerate clean energy adoption and use electricity in ways not even used across the U.S. yet - programs like demand response, energy storage grid services, and flexible payment options.

We attribute our success to the following strategies of innovation: 

By offering easy-to-deploy solutions to under-served complex problems. 

The main paradigm of smart metering technology, Advanced Metering Infrastructure, has largely failed to deliver a vision of a "smart grid," and in many cases "barely satisfies a cost-benefit analysis" even in the U.S. With US utilities even struggling to deploy AMI-smart metering, the challenges are even more difficult in emerging markets and developing countries where budget doesn't exist to hire external I.T. consultants and the conditions - like intermittent power and low-bandwidth internet - are not even a consideration for most AMI deployments. SparkMeter was founded to offer an alternative smart metering solution from AMI designed specifically to serve electric utilities in under-served markets throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We aim to provide them with a set of tools and technologies that are both affordable, easy-to-use, and effective. For example:

  • Our approach is rooted in "IoT" rather than "I.T.," and our system is as easy to install and use as a consumer IOT device like an Amazon Echo or a Nest Thermostat; it's plug-and-play. 
  • Our systems push much more intelligence and computing to the grid edge so they can be semi-autonomous from weak internet connections, unlike AMI systems where there's almost no intelligence on the meters or "data concentrator units," but rather entirely on the utility's servers. 
  • Rather than requiring the utility to have an I.T. department, on-site servers, and expensive database solutions, SparkMeter's software exists in the cloud.
  • SparkMeter's software has several applications in the box, including billing and payment systems and analytics on losses and reliability. Most AMI systems require expensive integrations between software provided by the meter vendor (a "Head-end System"), a "Meter Data Management System" database, and then third-party applications. If you're a small or struggling utility, it's inconvenient and expensive to source these different software elements and integrates them together. SparkMeter provides a seamless, cloud-based solution to the utility's full problem of bringing data from the grid edge to the cloud and into useful applications. Our job isn't done until our system delivers results for the utility. We provide a solution, not just a tool.

Pursuing an adapted company strategy that works towards achieving global decarbonization at scale. 

Prior to 2019, the company's major focus was proving out its hardware and software technology in smaller microgrid environments - remote communities where our technology enables monitoring, billing, payment, and system analytics. Today, in order to grow electricity access exponentially and help combat emissions globally, we have started to serve distribution utilities in emerging markets operating weak or broken grids, thus enabling reliable electricity access for more people. Conducting operations in emerging markets requires SparkMeter products to work within a wide range of regulatory, physical, connectivity, and political environments. Each customer is a utility of varying size, geographic location, and financial standing with users across roles, from senior management to billing and technical support.

The development of a new product suite that solves the most pressing issues for utilities of all sizes. 

To ensure SparkMeter products offer value to larger distribution utilities that operate in every possible environment, in 2020, the company launched its Advantage Metering Suite. The new metering suite was built to withstand high regulatory scrutiny, such as the highly-specific compliance standards in the biggest markets and challenges of dense operating territories common with urban distribution utilities. 

Along with the updated metering suite, SparkMeter launched a single sign-on cloud platform called Koios and its corresponding Data API that helps utilities manage a large portfolio of sites at scale. These software infrastructure updates offer advanced analytics and easy access to the wealth of information that smart meters provide. 

By leading the global utility industry forward. 

SparkMeter is transitioning from being a metering provider that focuses on record-keeping and payments into a much broader offering of services and software to support utility digitalization. 

Many utilities in emerging markets currently struggle to remain financially stable, and as a result, cannot provide reliable access to electricity. Our technology solves this challenge by improving payment collections and reducing grid outages. With reliable electricity, community members can start new businesses, expand operations and create meaningful economic value. We are an essential ingredient in enabling all those involved in driving economic development in emerging markets to prosper.  

Beyond being an innovation in our own right, we are a critical enabling technology that drives other innovations across the energy sector in emerging markets. The world cannot shift towards renewable energy and reduce GHG emissions globally without an affordable grid management system that connects solar power, wind power, and energy storage at the grid edge to the homes and businesses that need it. Our technology is the digital infrastructure that allows electrons to move from new, clean generation sources to end-users in a way that allows the grid to become reliable and resilient. As recent reports from the International Finance Corporation show, households and businesses in emerging markets rely on diesel and petrol backup generators for their electricity supply. In addition to contributing to GHGs, backup generators degrade local air quality, causing sickness and death.

Supporting technology that strengthens the reliability of essential services during COVID-19. 

Over the last year, we've seen the importance of energy access come to the forefront as COVID-19 amplified the need to provide reliable electricity to hospitals and medical care centers. Access to electricity is as essential during the Coronavirus pandemic as any time before. As the World Economic Forum found, "The ability for doctors and first responders to treat infected populations is based on the assumption that clinics, medical equipment, and medicines are fully functioning with access to sufficient, uninterrupted, reliable electricity. In parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that only 28% of health facilities have access to reliable electricity." Maintaining service reliability for critical facilities and services during times like this is arguably just as necessary as ensuring healthcare providers have appropriate personal protective equipment.