Irish company crowned world’s best energy start-up at Free Electrons

11 Nov 2021

Image: © Surasak/

KelTech IoT beat out start-ups from around the world to secure the $200,000 top prize at this year’s Free Electrons competition.

Dublin-based KelTech IoT has been recognised as the world’s best energy start-up at the Free Electrons competition finals today (11 November), becoming the first Irish start-up to win since the programme’s launch in 2017.

Free Electrons is a global accelerator programme for start-ups in the clean energy space, sponsored by ESB and other utility companies.

The third and final stage of the competition was hosted in Dublin between 9 and 11 November, where start-ups pitched their ideas to an alliance of global utilities.

Mark Kellett, managing director of KelTech, said that the company was “incredibly proud” to be the first Irish start-up to win Free Electrons. “The grand finale event hosted by ESB has been a great way to end this year’s competition,” he said.

“We are now looking forward to continuing to work closely with partner utilities to bring our ideas to life that we hope will help power a more sustainable world.”

KelTech primarily targets the property technology market with its internet of things (IoT) products focused on energy and communications. It develops tech for smart buildings and infrastructure, with sustainability in mind.

The Dublin company will now receive $200,000 in funding and gain access to global mentors and utility companies with a direct-market channel of 70m customers in 40 countries.

‘Role model’

The call for applicants to Free Electrons was opened in January this year, looking for start-ups that had developed low-carbon enabling technologies and customer-friendly services to accelerate the adoption of clean energy.

“The high-quality pipeline of innovation, new technologies and learnings that were on display throughout this year’s programme will help advance clean energy initiatives around the world,” said John McKiernan, head of innovation pipeline at ESB.

More than 3,000 start-ups from almost 100 countries have applied to be part of the Free Electrons programme. Along with ESB, sponsor utilities include American Electric Power, Energias de Portugal, Hong Kong’s CLP and Singapore Power.

To date, the utilities in the Free Electrons programme have invested more than $20m in start-up pilot projects.

Austin Bryan, senior director of innovation and ventures at CLP, called KelTech “role models” for open innovation distribution. “This unique proposition brings telecoms and power together in a unique physical manner,” he said.

Before this year’s programme, seven start-ups from Ireland had attended Free Electrons bootcamps or mini modules, including Carlow’s Xenotta, Dublin’s GridBeyond and Waterford’s Sedicii. In 2018, Limerick start-up Gridwatch made it to the top 15.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic