seeing green

Houston energy company launches program focused on renewables and green hydrogen

EDP Renewables has launched its second iteration of its clean energy innovation program. Photo courtesy of EDP

EDP Renewables, whose North American division is based in Houston, has launched the second module of its Energy Starter 2022 program.

EDP Renewables launched the first module in May; it dealt with the future of energy distribution. Applications for startups seeking to join the second module are being accepted until September 30. The second module focuses on innovations in renewable energy and green hydrogen.

Next year, the third and final modules will focus on decarbonization.

Companies selected for the second module will attend a bootcamp in Houston where they, in partnership with EDP Renewables experts, will develop their ideas and work on pilot projects. After the current four-phase edition of the program ends, startups will be able to test their innovations in the U.S., Brazil, Portugal, or Spain.

During the six editions of Energy Starter, the more than 150 participating startups have sealed over 80 deals, including equity investments and pilot projects. The most recent edition of Energy Starter attracted over 700 applicants.

Earlier this year, EDP Ventures, the venture capital arm of EDP Renewables North America’s parent company, pledged to double its investments in startups pursuing energy transition technology and services.

EDP Ventures says its VC commitment is climbing from 45 million euros (about $45 million) already invested in the past decade to a total of 100 million euros by 2025. EDP Ventures plans to allocate as much as 10 million euros per startup.

“As the electricity sector moves at unprecedented speed, we want to work with the most promising startups, with a clear focus on projects that represent growth opportunities. The coming years will be challenging for the energy transition, and we want to face them with the best ideas on a global level,” says Ana Paula Marques, CEO of EDP Spain, a subsidiary of Lisbon, Portugal-based energy company EDP Group.

Houston-based EDP Renewables North America is part of Madrid, Spain-based EDP Renewables, the world’s fourth largest producer of renewable energy. It’s investing 1 billion euros in innovation efforts by 2025. EDP Group is the majority shareholder of EDP Renewables.

The Houston division builds, owns, and operates wind farms and solar parks throughout North America. EDP Renewables North America oversees 58 wind farms and nine solar parks.

Among the nine solar parks is the $280 million, 240-megawatt Cattlemen Solar Park in Milam County, between the Austin metro area and Bryan-College Station. The park is scheduled to start generating electricity next year. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, recently signed a long-term, 156-megawatt power deal with EDP Renewables North America.

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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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