Shell New Energies has announced the acquisition of a majority share in microgrid company GI Energy, marking the sixth investment by the oil major in grid edge companies inside 18 months.

Greentech media online reports that Shell, as well as other energy giants such as Enel, Total, Engie and Centrica are all involved in a “grid edge shopping spree.”
According to GTM Grid Edge Research Manager Elta Kolo, it’s part of a concerted push from Shell over the past two years, after a promise to invest in distributed energy cautiously.

Through investment arms New Energies and Technology Ventures, Shell has already backed a wide range of companies, including mini-grid developer Husk and EV charging company NewMotion. In April, Shell published an Energy Transition Report detailing its “intent to move in step with society toward a lower-carbon future.”

While the investments still represent just a small fraction of overall capital expenditures, it does however indicate major energy players are valuing clean energy technologies — or at least hedging their bets. 

Utility investment in distributed energy companies has tripled since 2010, according to GTM Research. Investments have been most notable in Europe, with companies such as Enel and Shell taking the lead. Utilities spent a collective $1 billion in 2016.

The buying blitz helps each company diversify, buying time as they map the energy future. 

GI Energy builds microgrids and onsite energy systems for commercial, industrial and education customers. Their projects include a combined-heat-and-power system at New York City’s 2.5-million-square-foot One Penn Plaza and a geothermal installation on Roosevelt Island.

In a release on the Shell investment, GI Energy said it looked forward to working with MP2, another recent Shell acquisition with demand response and C&I solar offerings. GI Energy’s offices in Chicago, New York and California could support MP2 in building a presence in those areas. At the same time, Shell’s financial backing offers legitimacy to GI Energy.