Blog: energy excelerator


By Brita Belli

dawn lippertDawn Lippert (FES ’07) has spent the past several years in Hawaii working on building a sustainable energy future. Hawaii ranks first in the nation in electricity costs and the state is trying to find a way to successfully manage an electricity grid that draws energy from a variety of solar and wind installations. Last year, Lippert cofounded Energy Excelerator, a program for encouraging innovation in the energy sector, using Hawaii as a critical test market for clean energy startups. Between the high electricity costs, interest in clean energy from Hawaii-based military installations and Asian corporations, and a vibrant startup infrastructure, Lippert says Hawaii offers “ideal economic conditions for startups.” 

The accelerator offers two different funding opportunities for companies: up to $1 million in non-dilutive funding for growth-stage energy startups (which needs to be matched by customers or investors) and up to $100,000 for seed-stage energy startups. Applications for either are due September 27, with full details available on their website. 

Energy Excelerator receives funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Office of Naval Research and others. In addition to providing non-dilutive funding for startups to test their technology in Hawaii, Lippert says they “facilitate relationships with key people – which is a huge value add.” 

Seventeen companies funded by Energy Excelerator have raised over $40 million in follow-up funding, including startups in solar, biofuels, monitoring devices, renewable natural gas and desalination. “Hawaii is an important market to demonstrate it works,” Lippert says, but if a company later moves, she adds: “We’ll support them wherever they need to be.” About half of Energy Excelerator’s funded companies are in Hawaii, and the other half on the mainland.

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