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

it's not easy being green

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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Space City News: Houston Spaceport receives grant, unicorn hires architecture firm

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The Space City is starting 2022 off strong with news launching out of the Houston Spaceport — a TK-acre space in TK Houston.

The two big headlines include a unicorn company releasing the latest details of its earthbound project and fresh funds from the state to support the space ecosystem in Texas.

Governor Abbott doles out $10M in spaceport grants

Texas has launched fresh funding into two spaceport projects. Image via fly2houston.com

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced $10 million in funding to two Texas spaceports as a part of the state's Spaceport Trust Fund. The Houston Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million and the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. received $5 million.

The fund is administered by the Governor's Office of Economic Development and Tourism and was created to support the development of spaceport infrastructure, create quality jobs, and attract continuing investments that will strengthen the economic future of the state, according to a news release.

"For decades, Texas has been a trailblazer in space technology and we are proud to help cultivate more innovation and development in this growing industry in Cameron and Harris County," says Abbott in the release. "This investment in the Cameron County and Houston Spaceport Development Corporations will create even more economic opportunities for Texans across the state and continue our legacy as a leader in space technology."

Axiom Space hires Dallas-based architecture and engineering firm

Axiom Space has made progress on developing its 14-acre headquarters. Image via axiomspace.com

Houston-based unicorn Axiom Space has announced that it awarded Dallas-based Jacobs the architecture and engineering phase one design contract. The firm will be working on the 100,000-square-foot facility planned for the 400-acre Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport.

Axiom Space's plans are ro build the first commercial space station that will provide a central hub for research, to support microgravity experiments, manufacturing, and commerce in low Earth orbit missions, according to a news release.

"This is an exciting and historic moment for Axiom and the greater Houston area," says Axiom CTO Matt Ondler in the release. "For the first time, spacecraft will be built and outfitted right here in Houston, Texas. This facility will provide us with the infrastructure necessary to scale up operations and bring more aerospace jobs to the area. With this new facility, we are not only building next generation spacecraft, but also solidifying Houston as the U.S. commercial industry's gateway to space."

Axiom Space, which raised $130M in venture capital last year, is building out its 14-acre headquarters to accommodate the creation of more than 1,000 high-paying jobs, from engineers to scientists, mathematicians, and machinists.

"Houston is a city built on innovation and is becoming a next-generation tech hub in the United States," says Ron Williams, senior vice president at Jacobs. "Privately funded infrastructure will drive U.S. leadership in space. Jacobs is committed to providing integrated solutions to accelerate the future of commercial space operations."

Houston food charity scores prestigious Amazon tech grant

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One of Houston’s most cherished food charities has been recognized for its tech prowess. Houston Food Bank has been awarded the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Imagine Grant.

The endowment honors “the vision and work of nonprofit organizations as they seek to improve their communities and the world with the help of cloud technology,” per a press release.

Specifically, the food bank was recognized in the Go Further, Faster category for the launching of a cloud-native digital logistics platform to better serve vulnerable populations facing food insecurity (that insecurity was greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank notes.

Each winner in this category receives up to $150,000 in unrestricted funding, up to $100,000 in AWS Promotional Credit, and essential engagement with AWS technical specialists.

The challenges of COVID and the pandemic forced the food bank to get creative — and it responded. The food bank began delivering meals in March 2020 as part of its COVID-19 response through partnerships with volunteers, staff, corporate donors, and organizations such as CrowdSource Rescue, Task Rabbit, and Amazon.

This pilot has been a success: to date, more than 2.3 million meals have been delivered to those in need, the food bank notes in press materials.

Tech-wise, the food bank’s Home Delivery Platform operates using a cloud-native serverless architecture which includes heavy use of AWS services (AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon API Gateway, AWS Amplify, and more), with a mobile web responsive front-end written in React/Typescript.

The client side is split across four responsive web applications, each with a different function: Home Delivery management, pantry management, client orders, and driver deliveries. All of these apps utilize shared components and APIs that communicate with each other based on the different user personas.

Pariveda Solutions serves as the technology partner for the implementation of this platform. The project is a capability expansion on top of an existing manual process to deliver food to clients.

Houston Food Bank applied for the Imagine Grant in order to enhance their process digitally, connect submitted orders to the client’s nearest pantry, and manage delivery operations more effectively, with an emphasis on time management and delivery logistics, the organization notes in a release.

“With the success of our home delivery operations, Houston Food Bank’s goal now is to scale operations to expand home delivery for greater reach and impact,” said HFB president/CEO Brian Greene in a statement. “Additionally, with the proposed improvements, we hope to shift to utilizing volunteers for this important service instead of third-party delivery providers, and to deliver food using the client choice model, where clients may select foods based on personal preference, cultural and dietary needs. We are thankful to AWS and Pariveda Solutions for providing their support and expertise as we continue to find new ways to solve the age-old problem of hunger and work towards our ultimate vision of a world that no longer needs food banks.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

New Ion exec focuses on building density, bridging the gaps within Houston innovation

houston innovator podcast episode 117

After years of being in the works, The Ion Houston opened last year — but not in the way it was always hoping to. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the 300,000-square-foot space in the renovated historic Sears building in Midtown slowly opened its doors to the Houston innovation community and brought back in-person programming as safely as it could.

Despite the challenges the pandemic posed, The Ion, which is owned and operated by Rice Management Company, had a lot to show for 2021 — 95 events on and offline, new coworking space opened, corporate partners built out their offices, and more. And, among the additions to The Ion, was Joey Sanchez, who previously served as director of corporate engagement at Houston Exponential. Sanchez has been in his new role as senior director of ecosystem at The Ion for about three months now.

"I'm focusing specifically on the communities of entrepreneurs, startups, investors — and trying to bridge connections among them," Sanchez says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "This is the biggest challenge in Houston and we want to flip that with density. Density is really the key to solving connections."

Sanchez says The Ion, and the surrounding Innovation District, is building out to be that convening space for this density of innovation and tech activity.

This month, The Ion is set to deliver on a few of the amenities that have been in the works. First, the investor studio, a place for venture capital investors to meet with local businesses, will open next week. Later this month a high-tech prototyping lab will be unveiled as well as Common Bond, which Sanchez describes as a must-visit coffee shop for Houston's innovators.

"That's going to be the hottest coffee shop in Houston to run into a co-founder, tech talent, an investor — it really is exciting," Sanchez says. "Bridging these connections has been made easier now that I have a home that's as large as this."

Sanchez is familiar with connecting over coffee. He launched a weekly coffee meet up for Houston innovators. He hosts Cup of Joey every Friday morning at Finn Hall in downtown Houston to give everyone in Houston — new or old to the tech ecosystem — a chance to connect. He says he's excited to keep this up throughout 2022 too.

As for taking initial steps into Houston innovation, Sanchez advises attending any of the 400 to 500 events — virtual and in person — that happen in Houston.

"Just show up," Sanchez says. "It's so underrated, and through a pandemic it was obviously tough to do, but just showing up is the first step."

Sanchez shares more about what gets him so excited about Houston innovation on the show. Listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes