ABB has invested $20 million in California-based Trilliant, a provider of smart grid communication infrastructure that enables 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, its venture capital arm, with a syndicate led by Investor Growth Capital and VantagePoint Venture Partners. ABB Technology Ventures was created in October 2009 to invest in early and growth stage companies with technologies of strategic interest to ABB.

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 cooperation with Trilliant, announced in September 2009, where the two companies successfully 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 neighborhood level to the wide area network are what many utilities are seeking,” said Bazmi Husain, head of ABB’s smart grids initiative.

Trilliant’s technology is complementary to ABB’s portfolio, which was recently expanded through its more than $1 billion acquisition of Ventyx, a 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.