Grid edge

Duke Energy backs AiDash as the startup moves into asset inspection

The investment underscores growing utility interest in AI, and the startup's broad geographic ambitions.

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Photo credit: Christophe Archambault / AFP via Getty Images)

Photo credit: Christophe Archambault / AFP via Getty Images)

AiDash, a startup that uses satellite data for monitoring energy infrastructure, has added another major utility to its list of strategic investors: Duke Energy. 

  • The top line: Duke’s investment — which will be added to the startup’s latest funding round — coincides with AiDash’s expansion into asset inspection and monitoring, and the application of its satellite- and AI-forward technology to digital twins. This is an area that Duke has already prioritized, especially via its partnership with cloud company AWS.  
  • The nuts and bolts: AiDash raised $50 million for its Series C in January, touting applications for vegetation management. The startup’s existing investors include utilities like National Grid Partners and Edison International, as well as impact investment firm Lightrock and Schneider Electric’s venture fund, SE Ventures. 
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AiDash has so far appealed especially to utilities that are looking for new ways to identify areas where vegetation threatens grid infrastructure; a spokesperson for Duke Energy said the company sees "potential use cases for AiDash’s technology with vegetation management to continue to enhance customer reliability."

But AiDash is also in the process of rolling out what it has dubbed its Asset Inspection Monitoring System that integrates geospatial data with network design systems and distribution management systems, creating digital twins. While AiDash recently made the product module public, it won’t be selling it to customers until later this year.

The company’s CEO Abishek Singh described the use of digital twins as “the first step” in its embrace of asset inspection and monitoring. 

“Unless I know where all my assets are, and I have a kind of digital map of all my assets, I cannot do maintenance on those assets,” he said. 

This coincides with Duke’s pursuit of digital twins and grid planning in the cloud. The utility established a three-year partnership with AWS in late 2022 to develop a smart grid software and services on the AWS platform, which included a plan to accelerate tens of millions of power flow simulations that it runs each year to take a mere 15 minutes or less.

In the partnership’s first year, Duke ran over 10 million power flow simulations using the AWS platform. And broader beta testing of the service for the utility’s internal use is coming this year.

Duke did not clarify whether AiDash’s technology would complement its existing work with digital twins, and within the smart grid more broadly, saying only the utility "sees the transformative potential of AI within the energy industry" and looks forward to exploring AiDash's offerings. Duke has already used AI for forecasting, safety, customer experience, reliability, and efficiency, the spokesperson said.

The relationship between AiDash and Duke began in the last quarter of 2023. The investment of an undisclosed sum closed just this week.

AiDash’s outreach to Duke was motivated in part by AiDash’s desire to have investors representing “multiple regions facing multiple challenges,” Singh said. 

For instance, Edison International is based in California, and represents an opportunity for AiDash to deploy its technology in wildfire management. Duke covers a wide swath of the Southeastern United States, and offers the challenge of hurricanes and other kinds of storms, as well as different cost pressures. 

“Having that diversity between investors was very important for us to be sure there's alignment across the country,” Singh said.

Latitude Intelligence is soon to publish its first report on the use of AI by utilities. This joint research program with Indigo Advisory Group is a first-of-its-kind study of the pathways to adoption of AI-based solutions in the power sector. Through multiple interviews with utilities across the US, from investor-owned utilities to public power, this research uncovers how deployment strategies, existing applications, and targeted benefits are evolving. Sign up here to be notified when the report is released.

Editor's note: The story was updated on February 29 to include comments from Duke Energy.

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