HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 69
Houston expert: 2020 was 'hugely disruptive — but hugely beneficial' for the energy transition
In 2020, the economy was hit with a double whammy of sorts — from a devastating pandemic to an unprecedented drop in oil prices — and that has meant that the energy transition is happening at a faster pace than ever.
Deeana Zhang, director of energy technology at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., joined the Houston Innovators Podcast this week to discuss what she observed throughout the year as she worked closely with energy tech businesses.
"Because it was such a disruptive year, everyone — from the commercial and business side to the consumer side — has rethought how they are using and thinking about energy," she says on the show. "It was the first time that you saw such a mass disruption of energy demand, and that rolls through the entire ecosystem."
The effect touched all four corners of the industry in some way, and it forced all major energy players to be more intentional with their business strategy — especially when it comes to the role they play within the energy transition.
"The energy transition saw a huge uptick in 2020 — and there's a lot of implications of that from what pilots are getting commercialized and what companies are getting more funding," says Zhang. "All around it was hugely disruptive — but hugely beneficial I think to the energy transition."
Environmental, social and corporate governance, which has been growing in importance to investors and company leadership for several years now, also got a spur from 2020. ESG has been propelled by activism and consumer choice, Zhang says, but now investors are now forced to be more cognizant than ever.
"What's the investor responsibility to society as a whole? It's going beyond economics — what's your social and environmental responsibility? I think a lot of that expansion of responsibility is what's driving ESG," she says. "That's going to trickle down corporations and companies as they think about what is their expanded responsibility."
Zhang, who works closely with energy startups, also observed a profound effect when it came to capital and new business.
"A lot of companies say numbers go down in 2020, but the exceptions to that were companies that had a strong energy transition angle. Those companies were able to reposition themselves to ... counteract what was going on in the market in general," Zhang says. "From a capital raising standpoint, it was also really challenging. A lot of funds put a hold on investing in new companies and even some to their existing portfolio."
Investment came back toward the second half of the year, but there was a new level of caution, she says, and this is something startups saw happening across the country.
Zhang discusses more about what she saw happen last year for energy technology — as well as what that means for 2021 — on the episode. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.