SparkMeter raises $12 million for smart utility meters in developing countries

SparkMeter, a provider of grid management services, equipment, and software solutions, today closed an $11 million funding round. A company spokesperson told VentureBeat the funds will be used to launch SparkMeter’s new digital solutions that connect grid data insights to business operations for electricity distribution utilities in emerging markets.

Utility providers in such areas often struggle with revenue loss due to nonpayment and load management challenges, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Researchers at the University of Oxford found in a 2016 paper that capital expense requirements for providing services like electricity are “acutely sensitive to the density at which urbanization occurs.” In other words, extending connections in developing regions can involve large upfront costs.

SparkMeter offers internationally compliant meters and integrated software designed to automate payment processes, prioritize maintenance, and monitor system performance, addressing common utility pain points. The company’s platform leverages real-time data to prioritize and plan field visits, identify and resolve customer and technical issues, and reduce outages by limiting consumption to specific groups during times of high demand or low supply (due to a voltage drop or transformer under-loading, for example).

Clients can install SparkMeter’s meters at customer locations, on transformers, and on fuses to start collecting raw grid data. (Local base stations employ a low-bandwidth 2.5GHz RF network to collect metering and control data, enabling onsite operations during connectivity outages.) The platform then leverages this data to create models of distribution network assets in simulation alongside metrics pertaining to power quality, customer credits and debt, electricity rate, and load limit. From these models, utilities can identify estimates of inefficiency in places where capital expense might be needed.

With SparkMeter, utilities can perform maintenance and troubleshooting without an internet connection. They’re able to process payments through physical vendors and mobile platforms and review the status of systems, usage levels, and levels of losses. Consumed energy is billed using data reported by customer and totalizer meters to identify discrepancies and inform predictive maintenance decisions, and customers are alerted to events detected at utility sites.

SparkMeter grants managers the ability to customize privileges — that is, create and manage vendor and operator accounts and grant them individual site access. Users get an unlimited and customizable tariff list and the freedom to adjust load limits by the hour and apply them to meters to improve overall reliability. Moreover, they’re afforded the use of SparkMeter’s API, which integrates grid and metering operations with existing enterprise systems.

SparkMeter, whose metering system is used by over 40 utilities in 25 countries, claims to have sold over 100,000 meters to date. CEO Dan Schnitzer says the company will now look to expand its market presence in Asia and Africa.

The funding brings SparkMeter’s total raised to around $14.2 million, following a $2.5 million seed round. Clean Energy Ventures and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (cofounded by Bill Gates) coled the round alongside Goodwell Investments, in partnership with Alitheia Capital, Total Energy Ventures, and other investors.

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