it's not easy being green

Here's how Houston scores when it comes to promoting clean energy

Is the Energy Capital of the World on track with its clean energy? A new report finds, well, not so much. Photo by Katya Horner

The Energy Capital of the World has some work to do when it comes to ramping up its commitment to clean energy, according to a new report.

The report, published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), scores 100 major U.S. cities on their efforts to promote clean energy. Houston ranks 34th among the 100 cities.

On a 100-point scale, here’s how Houston fared in the report’s five categories:

  • Communitywide initiatives, 5 out of 15.
  • Building policies, 8.5 out of 30.
  • Transportation policies, 11 out of 30.
  • Energy and water utilities, 7.5 out of 15.
  • Local government operations, 4.5 out of 15.

While Houston ranked 34th, its scores were above the collective median scores for the 100 cities.

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranks No. 14 in the ACEEE report, with San Antonio at No. 37, Dallas at No. 43, and Fort Worth at No. 71.

San Francisco tops the nationwide list, followed by Seattle (No. 2), Washington, D.C. (No. 3), Minneapolis (No. 4), and Boston and New York City (tied at No. 5).

The ACEEE report casts doubt on Houston’s ability to achieve its goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030. A study published in 2021 shows Houston is making progress, though. According to the study, Houston; Seattle; Oslo, Norway; and Bogotá, Colombia are the four global cities that witnessed the largest per-capita reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The ACEEE report also faults Houston for enabling access to high-quality transit for just 30.7 percent of low-income households, and it dings the city for installing just 25.6 publicly available electric vehicle charging stations per 100,000 people.

The report’s five recommendations for improving Houston’s position in clean energy are:

  1. Publicize communitywide energy data.
  2. Establish and track metrics related to energy equity.
  3. Adopt building tune-up and audit requirements for improving the energy performance of existing structures.
  4. Expand high-quality transit access for low-income residents.
  5. Increase the number of charging stations for electric vehicles.

In 2020, the City of Houston rolled out the Climate Action Plan, aimed at reversing the city’s reliance on energy generated by fossil fuels. Last year, Turner told Yahoo News that Houston is poised to lead the world in the transition toward clean energy, with solar power and carbon capture technology among the primary solutions.

“We’ve got to change the way we have been doing things in the past, and that’s where we are partnering with the energy sector,” Turner told Yahoo News. “We’re trying to work to move the energy sector forward.”

In January 2021, Turner became chairman of Climate Mayors, a coalition formed to combat climate change.

“Cities are powerful drivers in the race against climate change. Mayors are investing in clean energy, greening our economies, and creating more sustainable and resilient communities across the U.S.,” Turner said when his ascent to the coalition’s chairmanship was announced.

Toward that end, Turner and his colleagues in the public and private sectors are shepherding Houston toward a future of cleaner energy. On the public-sector front, the City of Houston has reduced municipal emissions by 37 percent. In addition, the Houston consistently ranks as the No. 1 municipal user of renewable energy in the U.S.

As part of Houston’s drive toward clean energy, business leaders in November 2020 launched the nonprofit Renewable Energy Alliance Houston.

“As the headquarters for virtually every segment of the energy industry, Houston is the clear leader for our nation’s energy development,” Kay McCall, executive director of REAL Houston, said in a news release unveiling the alliance. “With the clean energy transition progressing, REAL Houston is poised to help Houston rise to meet these challenges and promote opportunities for Houston’s leaders to connect, share, and grow.”

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Building Houston

 
 

Fourteen companies are joining the spring cohort of the Softeq Venture Studio. Photo courtesy of Softeq

A Houston tech company has announced the latest cohort of its accelerator program, bringing the total number of startups supported by the company to 63.

Softeq Development Corp., a technology services development company, named 14 new startups joining its three-month spring Softeq Venture Studio cohort.

“We are so proud of the success we have had with the Softeq Venture Studio, helping to support and secure funding for 63 startups to date through the Softeq Venture Fund," says Christopher A. Howard, founder and CEO of Softeq. "With 23 of 89 founders coming from outside of the U.S., we demonstrate Houston’s growing influence as a startup hub where entrepreneurs can find a welcoming innovation community, a strong talent base, and world-class research facilities."

The spring 2023 cohort for Softeq includes:

  • Houston-based AIM7, data intelligence platform that unlocks wearable and mHealth data to provide customized and predictive wellness solutions.
  • Avendly, based in Providence, Rhode Island, makes robotic automation for restaurants to help, not supplant humans. Its first of many products is Mixibot, an integrated back-bar cocktail vending system.
  • Founded in Austin, ClioVis, is meeting today’s content-creator students where they are and how they learn. The company provides unique experiential learning tools designed for today’s content-creator students who learn by doing, not lectures.
  • Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Flometrica, is a digital health solution featuring "use anywhere" devices to remotely monitor and diagnose various urinary tract problems through analysis of different urine parameters.
  • Gophr, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, is a technology-driven logistics company that provides tailored and efficient delivery solutions for various industries, individuals, and businesses of all sizes.
  • Chicago-based KarChing puts cash in teens’ hands for safe driving. The only app built for parents, teens, and insurance companies that rewards drivers for phone- and distraction-free behavior behind the wheel.
  • Houston-founded Meander collects travel customer satisfaction micro-surveys as people go about their trips. The research platform rewards travelers for sharing their pics, videos, and insights.
  • MEedia, based in Sacramento, California, puts a professional press conference event in your pocket. Individuals can create broadcast-worthy interactive shareable content with just their phone.
  • MeterLeader, from Huntington Beach, California, gamifies saving energy in homes by using real-time utility data and behavioral science. We're like a Fitbit challenge for your home, but instead of steps we measure kWh, therm, and CO2 reductions.
  • Houston-based PayOnDelivery, integrates secure payment with delivery for markets like Craigslist and Facebook. It’s low-hassle, fraud-free buying and selling for peer-to-peer marketplaces.
  • Another Lake Charles business, Picasso Analytics has a platform that can reduce delays and save oil refiners and petrochem owners 10 to 15 percent on multi-million dollar turnaround events by providing a single source of truth integrating the schedule, time entry, and shop status.
  • Sarasota, Florida-based Toivoa develops software-based therapies for people with disabilities who experience mental health disorders. On track for FDA approval, the platform is prescription-based, clinically validated, and delivered on your phone.
  • UpBrainery Technologies, founded in Houston, helps students explore careers through digital experiences. AI guides their interests in career paths and credentials their achievements for employers and colleges.
  • Also from Houston, WellWorth (https://wellworthapp.com/), is a financial modeling SaaS platform that helps upstream oil and gas finance leaders improve their decision-making around raising, managing, and deploying capital.

Softeq Venture Studio launched over a year ago with its inaugural cohort in 2021, and the fund was launched last year. Since launch, Softeq has raised 80 percent of its inaugural $40 million Softeq Venture Fund and made investments in 63 startups. Softeq has also reformatted its accelerator program to include two cohort classes per year, allowing for more time to be spent with the Venture Studio and its cohort startups.

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