ABB has expanded its access to unified communications for grid distribution, automation, demand management and metering infrastructure by investing $20 million in California-based Trilliant.

Trilliant is a leading provider of smart grid communications infrastructure that enables major improvements in energy efficiency and grid reliability. ABB is part of a syndicate that invested a total of $106 million in Trilliant’s recently announced second round of financing.

The investment has been made through ABB Technology Ventures, the company’s venture capital arm, with a syndicate led by Investor Growth Capital and VantagePoint Venture Partners. The deal gives ABB a link to Trilliant’s end-to-end system for smart grid communications.

Trilliant provides utilities with wireless mesh networks that enable two-way communication from the head-end operations center to all devices on the grid – a solution that encompasses not only meters and in-home energy management devices but also substations and grid equipment such as transformers and capacitor banks. __

This investment by ABB builds on its existing co-operation with Trilliant, announced in September 2009, when the two companies demonstrated the interoperability of Trilliant’s SecureMesh communications network with ABB’s station automation and protection products.

“Solutions for intelligent and secure communication from the neighbourhood level to the wide area network are what many utilities are seeking,” said Bazmi Husain, head of ABB’s smart grids initiative. “The Trilliant investment demonstrates ABB’s commitment to partnering in a variety of ways with innovative companies to advance the evolution of smart grid solutions.”

“ABB’s expertise in grid infrastructure and network management make the group an ideal partner for Trilliant,” said Andy White, President and CEO of Trilliant. “With our complementary offerings and common interest in smart grid technologies, I believe this will be a very productive collaboration.”

Trilliant’s technology complements ABB’s smart grid portfolio, which was recently strengthened through its more than $1 billion acquisition of Ventyx, a leading software provider to global energy, utility, communications, and other asset-intensive businesses. Trilliant’s solutions provide network communications infrastructure that supports many of these applications.