by Mark Chediak, Bloomberg

A private equity firm backed by some of the world’s largest utilities has raised $ to finance startups developing -energy technology.

Energy Impact Partners LP, which represents giants including Southern Co., National Grid Plc and AGL Energy Ltd., has already invested more than $200 million in companies like Advanced Microgrid Solutions LLC, AutoGrid Systems Inc. and Tendril Networks Inc. The amount raised includes up to $150 million in U.S. Small Business Administration loans, according to a statement Wednesday.

Utilities are trying to capture future industry growth amid stagnant electricity demand and a rise in technologies that give customers more control over their energy use. Utilities disclosed about $6.8 billion in venture capital, private equity and merger and acquisition deals in 2017, Bloomberg NEF estimates.

“We are helping them future-proof their business,” Chief Executive Officer Hans Kobler said in an interview. “This is a difficult landscape and as utilities prepare for that, they need to look for what’s coming down the pike and we serve as their eyes and ears for them.”

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