Amid the many efforts to address global climate change, one of the simplest strategies is to reduce energy usage. That’s the idea behind Cambridge startup Sense, which is making gear to help consumers monitor and cut back on how much electricity they use.
The nine-year-old company founded by a group of computer speech recognition experts announced on Wednesday that it had raised $105 million in additional backing from investors led by Blue Earth Capital and also including TELUS Ventures, MCJ Collective, Schneider Electric, Energy Impact Partners, Prelude Ventures, and iRobot. The company has now raised a total of $157 million.
Sense is part of a growing cluster of climate tech startups that have emerged from research at local universities and environmentally oriented local investors. Even as the stock market has declined and private investments in startups have dried up, the climate tech sector is continuing to draw strong interest. Electrical airplane company BETA raised $375 million this month, geothermal startup Quaise Energy raised $40 million in February, and clean energy software developer Colossus raised $36 million in January.
“Over the last couple of years, there has been a strong realization about the reality of climate change and the need for an energy transition,” Sense chief executive Mike Phillips said. “So there is now a lot of activity in the fund-raising world for this energy transition ... and a lot of attention in the Boston area.”
Sense’s initial product was a $300 small orange box that consumers could attach to their home electrical panel. Without any additional sensors or smart appliances, the box provided detailed real-time reports via a smartphone app about which devices were using electricity and how much power they consumed. That allowed people to shut off unneeded devices or plan for usage overnight when electricity demand is lower.
The system doesn’t require sensors or complex smart gear because it solely monitors minute changes in the patterns of electrical demand to identify different devices. “Your lightbulb uses power a little bit differently than the space heater and a little bit differently than the refrigerator,” Phillips explained. Software trained on machine learning algorithms can identify each device based on those different power signatures.
Now Sense is expanding by adding all of the features in the orange box to typical electrical meters that are attached to houses. Utilities are increasingly willing to pay for the smart meters, which can be connected to the same consumer app and also be used to steer electrical usage to times when demand is lower.
Landis+Gyr and Schneider Electric are among the company’s partners on the smart meter product.
“This is starting to get built into homes, and it’ll just be there for consumers,” Phillips said.