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7 can't-miss innovation events at CERAWeek featuring Houston speakers

Here's what to attend at CERAWeek if you're interested in hearing from Houston innovators. CERAWeek/Facebook

With the return of in-person programming, hundreds of energy experts, C-level executives, diplomats, members of royal families, and more are descending upon Houston for the 2022 CERAWeek by IHS Markit taking place in downtown March 7 to 11. The conference is bringing back its Agora track, focused on innovation within the energy sector.

Agora's events — thought-provoking panels, intimate pods, and more — will take place alongside the main conference at The Hilton Americas-Houston. A note to attendees that masks, proof of vaccination, and a negative COVID test are all required at registration.

As one might expect, Houston innovators will be attending and speaking at this energy industry mainstay. Here are five innovation-focused events you can't miss during CERAWeek that feature Houstonians.

Monday, March 7 — Innovations in Clean Tech Financing: Are investors ready & willing?

Investor demand for clean tech assets has been a leading indicator for company-level action on energy transition strategies. With higher commodity prices attracting renewed interest in the role of oil and gas companies as energy transition drivers, investors have once again reengaged with elements of the industry that were difficult to fund only months ago. What is the balance for clean tech plays versus progress on net-zero approaches at existing firms? How do legacy business models need to change to adapt to investor concerns about the pace of the energy transition? How can companies better communicate with investors on clean tech deployment strategies, and how can investors speak the language of industry operators?

Session Speakers

  • Peter Gardett, IHS Markit
  • Juliana Garaizar, Greentown Labs
  • Brent Newcomb, Ecofin
  • Deepa Poduval, Black & Veatch

The panel takes place at 2 pm in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

Monday, March 7 — AI in the Energy Production Process: Unlocking energy transition opportunities

The world is pursuing a lower-carbon energy mix with great intent and energy companies are grasping new opportunities that encompass much more of the energy value chain than old business models, including closer engagement with end-use customers. Headwinds exist in the form of high costs, the pace of change and ever-changing regulatory burdens. All companies are embracing digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) seems set to have a significant role in a rapidly changing, data-intense energy value chain. How might AI help unlock new and enhanced opportunities? What methods can help manage the mix of weather-dependent renewable energy and traditional energy sources to ensure low-carbon reliable supplies? How can we navigate and derive advantages from the new proximity between producers and end-users to drive efficiency and reduce cost? What risks or challenges remain to be mitigated or solved in applying AI to energy production? How quickly can we overcome them?

Session Speakers:

  • Michael Wynn, IHS Markit
  • Jon Guidroz, Microsoft
  • Francois Laborie, Cognite
  • Amish Sabharwal, AVEVA

The panel takes place at 4 pm in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, March 8 — New Business Models for Bringing Climate Tech Solutions to Scale

As the energy system decarbonizes, it is becoming more complex and more interconnected. Today’s emerging energy system is fundamentally different, forcing companies to compete globally. New technologies will have to be developed to meet climate ambitions, evolving energy uses, and emerging new supply chains. How will corporate structures and business models change as new opportunities, but also new threats, emerge? What new business models can scale new technologies to support decarbonization efforts? What opportunities and challenges will companies face?

Session speakers:

  • Eduard Sala de Vedruna, IHS Markit
  • Barbara Burger, Chevron Corporation
  • Matt Kanan, Stanford University
  • Ernesto Gutiérrez de Piñeres, Ecopetrol

The panel takes place at 10:30 am in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, March 9 — Energy Cities: From oil capitals to energy transition capitals

Cities are the source of significant climate-changing activity and mobility challenges and need to cooperate globally for solutions. What steps are the cities taking to tackle climate change and where are the leaders globally?

Session speakers:

  • Lyn Tattum, IHS Markit
  • Hon. Fahad Al-Jubair, Eastern Province Municipality
  • Hon. Barney Crockett, Aberdeen City Council
  • His Worship Michael Savage, Halifax Regional Municipality
  • Hon. Sylvester Turner, City of Houston

The panel takes place at 2:30 pm in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

Thursday, March 10 — Advancing Energy Innovation: Growth of the ecosystem

Originating in the Silicon Valley, the term “Innovation Ecosystem is the evolving set of actors, activities, and artifacts, and the institutions and relations, including complementary and substitute relations, that are important for the innovative performance of an actor or a population of actors.” Creating energy sector innovation ecosystems has been challenging due to a multitude of participants, access to capital, role of governments, and challenges scaling promising technologies. With the need to develop and scale new technologies to achieve net zero by 2050, energy innovation will be the linchpin. What are critical factors for creating successful clean energy/tech innovation centers? Where are the most successful cleantech innovation ecosystems, and what makes them successful? Does the nature of the energy system make it less receptive to new ideas and innovations? How could governments incentivize these ecosystems? How could the pace of knowledge transfer be accelerated from innovation to deployment? With future growth in energy demand and investments centered in developing countries, how can new ecosystems be created in these countries?

Session Speakers:

  • Atul Arya, IHS Markit
  • Barbara Burger, Chevron Corporation
  • Robin Millican, Breakthrough Energy
  • Emily Reichert, Greentown Labs

The panel takes place at 12:30 pm in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

Thursday, March 10 — “NextGen” Future Energy Leaders Town Hall

The race is on for innovative, fresh approaches to solve the world’s greatest energy and climate challenges. The emerging generation of future energy leaders, technologists, and entrepreneurs have unprecedented opportunity for impact and to create real change. The energy world is hungry and open to disruptive ideas. There never has been a more exciting—or urgent—time to be part of the energy industry. Join this special interactive “Next Gen” dynamic session, featuring rapid-fire insights by leading minds on energy innovation, along with CERAWeek Future Energy Leaders. How can we achieve net zero ambitions by 2050? How can we tackle climate change while meeting the planet’s need for more energy? What are the promising and scalable technologies? What are the challenges and most exciting opportunities?

Session Speakers:

  • Louis Carranza, MIT Energy Initiative
  • Ali Al Rawahi, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)
  • Dr. Douglas J. Arent, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • Juliana Garaizar, Greentown Labs
  • Sunita Narain, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
  • Jigar Shah, United States Department of Energy
  • Anish Simon, Equinor
  • Vijay Swarup, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company
  • Jordan Watson, Korn Ferry
  • Darryl Willis, Microsoft Corporation

The panel takes place at 5 pm in the Agora Pod. Click here to learn more.

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Building Houston

 
 

Juliana Garaizar is now the chief development and investment officer at Greentown Labs, as well as continuing to be head of the Houston incubator. Image courtesy of Greentown

The new year has brought some big news from Greentown Labs.

The Somerville, Massachusetts-based climatetech incubator with its second location at Greentown Houston named a new member to its C-suite, is seeking new Houston team members, and has officially finished its transition into a nonprofit.

Juliana Garaizar, who originally joined Greentown as launch director ahead of the Houston opening in 2021, has been promoted from vice president of innovation to chief development and investment officer.

"I'm refocusing on the Greentown Labs level in a development role, which means fundraising for both locations and potentially new ones," Garaizar tells InnovationMap. "My role is not only development, but also investment. That's something I'm very glad to be pursuing with my investment hat. Access to capital is key for all our members, and I'm going to be in charge of refining and upgrading our investment program."

While she will also maintain her role as head of the Houston incubator, Greentown Houston is also hiring a general manager position to oversee day-to-day and internal operations of the hub. Garaizar says this role will take some of the internal-facing responsibilities off of her plate.

"Now that we are more than 80 members, we need more internal coordination," she explains. "Considering that the goal for Greentown is to grow to more locations, there's going to be more coordination and, I'd say, more autonomy for the Houston campus."

The promotion follows a recent announcement that Emily Reichert, who served as CEO for the company for a decade, has stepped back to become CEO emeritus. Greentown is searching for its next leader and CFO Kevin Taylor is currently serving as interim CEO. Garaizar says the transition is representative of Greentown's future as it grows to more locations and a larger organization.

"Emily's transition was planned — but, of course, in stealth mode," Garaizar says, adding that Reichert is on the committee that's finding the new CEO. "She thinks scaling is a different animal from putting (Greentown) together, which she did really beautifully."

Garaizar says her new role will include overseeing Greentown's new nonprofit status. She tells InnovationMap that the organization originally was founded as a nonprofit, but converted to a for-profit in order to receive a loan at its first location. Now, with the mission focus Greentown has and the opportunities for grants and funding, it was time to convert back to a nonprofit, Garaizar says.

"When we started fundraising for Houston, everyone was asking why we weren't a nonprofit. That opened the discussion again," she says. "The past year we have been going through that process and we can finally say it has been completed.

"I think it's going to open the door to a lot more collaboration and potential grants," she adds.

Greentown is continuing to grow its team ahead of planned expansion. The organization hasn't yet announced its next location — Garaizar says the primary focus is filling the CEO position first. In Houston, the hub is also looking for an events manager to ensure the incubator is providing key programming for its members, as well as the Houston innovation community as a whole.

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