by the numbers

Report: Houston sees $250M in cleantech investments so far this year

"Houston is literally putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to leading the energy transition," the report reads. Image via Getty Images

Houston is cleaning up when it comes to cleantech investments.

Through the first three quarters of 2022, companies in Houston invested a combined $250 million in cleantech, according to new data from professional services firm Deloitte. In terms of the size of ESG deals in Houston this year, 55 percent have been valued at $50 million and above, Deloitte says.

“Houston is literally putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to leading the energy transition,” Deloitte says.

Deloitte notes that this type of investment is critical as companies get their internal “ESG house” in order ahead of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issuing new rules surrounding ESG reporting.

Since the start of 2020, close to $50 billion has been invested through more than 900 expansion-stage deals in the U.S., “with 2022 hardly seeing a slowdown, despite the volatility-inducing factors that currently roil global economies and markets,” Deloitte says in a new report.

“Much of this surge can be attributed to the frontier of technical innovation pushing forward to the point that adoption is growing across multiple sectors, even if at a slow pace in some arenas,” the report says. “For example, aerospace and related parts manufacturers are working on modernizing traffic management to optimize flight patterns and curb emissions, while [R&D] is proceeding quickly in new propulsion technologies … .”

The report goes on to say that the chemical industry could see a surge in demand for decarbonization tech as more companies seek to hit net-zero emissions by 2050 and a decrease in emissions if newer manufacturing processes are adopted.

Houston’s cleantech scene got a big boost in 2021 when Greentown Labs, an incubator for climatetech startups, opened a location here.

The CEO of the Somerville, Massachusetts-based incubator, Emily Reichert, recently stepped down. She will serve as CEO emeritus until her successor is hired. Reichert joined Greentown Labs in 2013 as its first employee.

Kevin Taylor, currently Greentown’s chief financial officer, has been named interim CEO. He came aboard in January as the organization’s first full-time CFO.

“Emily’s impact on the climatetech sector — and on the lives of our past and present startups and Greentown staff members — cannot be overstated,” Taylor says in a news release. “She is a consummate professional and the quintessential example of entrepreneurial excellence.”

In October, Greentown launched the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy (TEX-E), a collaboration among Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and five Texas universities aimed at creating a student-driven entrepreneurship ecosystem in Houston. The five founding schools are Rice University, the University of Houston, Prairie A&M University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas at Austin.

“Houston has long been known as the energy capital of the world, but to lead the world’s energy transition, the city must create a strong, vibrant innovation ecosystem to support the next generation of entrepreneurs and energy companies,” Lara Cottingham, chief of staff at Greentown, said in October. “TEX-E will build upon Texas universities’ deep and long-standing connections to the energy industry by helping to attract and retain the world-class talent needed to supercharge Houston’s innovation ecosystem.”

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Building Houston

 
 

Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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