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.”

Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit from both its Houston location and its Boston-area office. Photo via greentownlabs.com

Overheard: Energy transition experts weigh in at Houston climatetech conference

eavesdropping in houston

This week, world leaders are discussing climate change and the future of our planet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, but local leaders were also discussing much closer to home.

Greentown Labs hosted its Climatetech Summit on Thursday, November 4, at both its offices in Houston and Sommerville, Massachusetts. The hybrid event featured a full day of networking, panels, and thought leadership.

Missed the conversation? Here are five key moments from the event.

​"Houston cannot transition without transitioning its workforce, and we need to help with that and make sure that people understand that. Demystifying the jobs of the future is key."

— says Juliana Garaizar, Greentown Labs' head of Houston incubator and vice president of innovation, in her welcome address.

"The energy transition in Houston needs to happen in an equitable way," she says. "Houston is the most diverse city in the US. It is up to us now to make it the most inclusive."

"The world will continue to need a lot of hydrocarbons for quite a long period of time, and Houston can and should remain a leader there. But it will not be an engine for growth."

— says Bobby Tudor, former chair of the Greater Houston Partnership and chairman of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co, in his keynote.

"If we are not going to have that business, which accounts for approximately 40 percent of all jobs in Greater Houston, be an engine of growth, we sure as heck better find businesses that are, or we will not have the same kind of prosperity that we've had in our region," Tudor says.

"The Energy Capital of the World will be the leader in the global energy transition."

— says Mayor Sylvester Turner in his address.

"As a lifelong Houston, I am proud of our history and proud of the innovation, growth, and prosperity the energy industry brings to our community," he continues. "But, as leaders of the energy industry, I believe it is our responsibility to continue this legacy and develop the innovative technologies and practices needed to decarbonize the entire energy sector worldwide."

"Texas has more potential to produce clean energy — wind, solar, storage — and efficiency than any other state."

says HARC President + CEO John Hall in his address.

"And we're fortunate that today — even though we continue to lead the country in producing oil and gas — 40 percent of the electricity being used in this state is zero emitting."

"You don't get change by wishing and hoping. You need to plan and to act."

says Quantum New Energy CEO Patricia Vega on the panel about transitioning the workforce.

"We live in a world where we can track steps, calories, and likes on social media, but if I ask each one of you what is your carbon footprint or carbon efficiency, many of us don't know how to answer those questions and don't have the tools," she adds.

The Houston location is one of six Greenhouses in the U.S. and one of 40 around the world. Photo courtesy of Deloitte

Deloitte launches first-of-its-kind clean energy lab in Houston

seeing green

Houston will become home to professional services giant Deloitte's largest and most technologically advanced immersive, interactive innovation hub dubbed the Deloitte Greenhouse, Powered by Energy & Industrials.

Co-located with the company's downtown Houston headquarters, the 14,000-square-foot space is intended to help executives plant and foster new ways of thinking, working, and experimenting in the energy industry.

The Houston location is one of six Greenhouses in the U.S. and one of 40 around the world — take a virtual tour of a few of them here. This is the first Greenhouse in Texas (other U.S. locations include Chicago, New York, San Jose, and Washington D.C.) and the first to focus on the energy transition.

"Houston, the world's energy capital, is the ideal location for this type of innovative approach to accelerate problem-solving," says Amy Chronis, Houston managing partner, Deloitte LLP. "The oil and gas industry is at a crossroads where business transformation is no longer an option. We are providing a controlled, safe environment for companies to experiment and test various workforce, technology and market scenarios to help them right-size and future-proof their businesses in this rapidly changing landscape."

The space is designed with touchscreen-enabled and collaborative technology tools to "help ideate, co-create and prototype solutions to the toughest challenges facing the industry," including a 360-degree immersion dome.

It's also slated to include AR technology and computer vision algorithmic solutions that have become a focus for crews working in remote, high-risk environments, especially during the pandemic.

"New realities and expectations are driving the demand for new thinking," says Stanley Porter, vice chair and U.S. energy, resources and industrials leader at Deloitte. "At Deloitte, we are committed to and we are investing in the Deloitte Greenhouse, Powered by Energy & Industrials to accelerate learning and enable rapid solutions to help our clients solve their most complex problems and co-create their future."

Other global leaders have launched incubators in Houston that focus on the shift to lower carbon energy in recent months. Halliburton's in-house incubator launched last year and recently announced new startups that are teaming up with the lab. Meanwhile, Greentown Labs, opened earlier this year.

The space is designed with touchscreen-enabled and collaborative technology tools. Photo courtesy of Deloitte

A new clean energy accelerator has announced its first cohort. Photo via Getty Images

Exclusive: Rice University's new clean energy accelerator announces inaugural cohort

ready to grow

Rice University selected 12 early-stage clean energy startups to help accelerate over the summer — and the new program kicks off later this month.

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, which was announced last September, is a 12-week program will prepare startups to grow their business, connect them with strategic partners and mentors, launch pilots, and fundraise. The inaugural application process attracted companies from 14 states and eight countries.

"We were impressed with the quality, potential and range of clean energy solutions being commercialized by our applicant pool and took great care in assessing their potential as well as our ability to meet their identified needs," says Kerri Smith, the accelerator's interim executive director. "The selection process was very competitive. We had a difficult time paring down the applications but are looking forward to working with our first class of 12."

A screening committee comprised of over 30 entrepreneurs, energy experts, and industry executives selected the 12 companies by evaluating them on their innovation, market strategy, viability, and more.

"With a decade of experience leading the OwlSpark Accelerator, we know that in addition to recruiting startups with technological promise, it's critical we also create a cohesive and collaborative culture," says Smith, who led OwlSpark since 2013. "We ensured we could provide the founders with a quality experience and deliver on individual startup needs."

The program, which will eventually be housed in The Ion, kicks off virtually on June 28 and will end with a demo day in conjunction with the 19th Annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum on Thursday, September 16.

The inaugural cohort of the program includes:

  • Toronto-based 3E Nano, a nanotechnology company that has developed an earth-friendly, high performance solar energy control coating for polymeric substrates.
  • Carbon BioEnergy, which has a mission is to transform carbon dioxide, waste biomass, and renewable electricity into zero-carbon biofuels and chemicals. The company is focused on replacing fuels in the hard-to-decarbonize sectors, like aviation and marine transport.
  • CoFlow Jet Wind Turbines is developing transformative ultra-high efficiency, low energy cost wind turbines to expand wind energy usage and reduce greenhouse gas emission.
  • Houston-based Criterion Energy Partners, an independent exploration and production company, is focused on developing decentralized direct geothermal energy projects to help commercial and industrial consumers by providing clean, reliable, baseload energy using heat from the Earth.
  • Ground State Technologies is developing an edge optimization processor chip to enable energy companies to deploy more intelligent systems. The company is based in Mountain View, California.
  • Hydrodine Catalytics, a Canadian company, has developed a zero emissions cleantech that eliminates the need for fuel gas, enables gas producers to capture Offset Carbon Credits, lowers CAP/OPEX, provides power at remote natural gas well sites, and improves operator safety.
  • Kanin Energy, a turnkey developer and innovative investor of waste heat to power projects, is helping heavy industry monetize waste heat and decarbonize operations. The company is based in Alberta, Canada.
  • Illinois-based NASADYA is building power systems that would take excess energy form the power plants and convert that into profitable co-products, green hydrogen, and oxygen.
  • Power HV, a Canadian company, has built monitoring sensors and bushings to help oil processing plants like refineries and transportation improve safety from methane and fire while reducing electricity grid losses and improving transformer energy efficiency by 30 percent.
  • Californian company Renewell Energy converts idle oil and gas wells into the lowest cost, most flexible, highest GHG abating energy storage devices in the world.
  • SeebeckCell Technologies, based in Arlington, Texas, is helping petroleum and gas industries and emerging markets solve energy waste with an innovative liquid based thermoelectric generator.
  • Mote is developing carbon-negative biomass gasification factories to supply customers with hydrogen.
Craig Lawrence and Neal Dikeman co-founded a new venture capital firm focused on funding technology as a part of the energy transition. Photos courtesy

New Houston-based venture capital firm emerges to focus on energy transition

money moves

Two Texas entrepreneurs recently announced what they say is the first venture fund in Texas exclusively dedicated to investing in energy transition technologies.

Houston-based Energy Transition Ventures — led by Craig Lawrence and Neal Dikeman — officially emerged from stealth mode with anchor investment from two operating companies from the GS Group of Korea. The fund closed its first capital in February this, completed its first investment in March, and looks to close new investors for a total fund size of $75 million, according to a press release.

"In the near future, energy is going to be delivered and used completely differently. Marginal and average energy and CO2e prices are now on a long term deflationary trend," says Dikeman in the release. "There are 500 multi-billion dollar energy companies globally, and massive portions of global GDP, that are going to get disrupted in the energy transition, from energy & power, transport, real estate, industrial to consumer to agriculture."

Dikeman, who is the managing partner at Old Growth Ventures, a family office investor, also chairs the board at nonprofit cleantech accelerator Cleantech.org, virtual research institute. In 2001, he co-founded San Francisco based cleantech investment firm Jane Capital in 2001.

"We've been successful being highly selective as investors, and using our deep networks and understanding of energy and technology to avoid pitfalls other investors faced. It is exciting to be off the bench to do it again," he continues.

Lawrence, who's also been a part of the cleantech revolution for a chunk of his career, previously started and led the cleantech investing effort at Accel Partners and was previously vice president of product at software company Treverity. The duo chose the Energy Capital of the World to headquarter ETV.

"Texas is the energy capital of the world, and outside of corporate venture capital, there are not many venture funds in the state," says Lawrence. "So it makes sense to start an energy transition focused fund here as the latest wave of clean technology investing accelerates."

ETV will fund from seed to series B with select late-stage opportunities, according to the release, and will colocate a Silicon Valley office with GS Futures, the Silicon Valley-based corporate venture capital arm of energy, construction, and retail conglomerate GS Group of Korea.

"We're excited to be investing in ETV and in the future of energy," says Tae Huh, managing director of GS Futures, in the release. "Energy Transition Ventures is our first investment from the new GS Futures fund, and we've already run successful pilots in Korea with three US startups even before this fund closed an investment – we are working to accelerate the old model of corporate venture dramatically."

Jon Wellinghoff, former chair of FERC, and Deb Merril, president of EDF Retail and co-founder and former co-CEO of Just Energy, have also joined ETV as advisors. GS Energy executive Q Song moves from Seoul, Korea, to join the Houston ETV investment team, according to the release.

According to Houston-based ENGlobal, the company "has more promising opportunities for significant new business than at any time in [the] company's history." Photo via Getty Images

Houston company focused on renewables sees high growth potential amid 'energy revolution'

seeing green

For Houston-based ENGlobal Corp., a provider of engineering and automation services geared toward the energy industry, renewable fuel facilities are a business pipeline gushing with opportunity.

ENGlobal's potential contracts for renewable fuels projects currently exceed $320 million, says Bill Coskey, the company's founder, president, and CEO. That's about six times the amount of ENGlobal's revenue through the first nine months of this year — $52.9 million.

During the company's third-quarter earnings call November 5, Coskey said publicly traded ENGlobal "has more promising opportunities for significant new business than at any time in our company's history."

Many of those opportunities stem from ENGlobal's shift a couple of years ago to a sharp focus on the renewable energy sector. This includes building utility-scale systems to store wind and solar power, and supplying modular engineered process plants for forms of energy like hydrogen and renewable diesel. Modular process plants consist of separately engineered and automated modules that are made off-site and assembled on-site.

"Manufacturing plants based on modular equipment are emerging as a viable and beneficial alternative to conventional stick-built processing plants. Modular equipment offers several benefits, including flexibility in plant siting, fewer safety concerns during construction, and ease of equipment modification," according to the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

ENGlobal is engineering and fabricating a modular hydrogen plant for a renewal diesel facility scheduled for completion in May. Incorporating proprietary technology from Denmark-based Haldor Topsoe (which has two offices and one plant in the Houston area), this hydrogen plant will consume about 20 percent less feed and fuel than conventional hydrogen plants, leading to lower operating costs and a smaller carbon footprint. It's the first facility of its kind in the U.S. This $25 million project falls into a bucket of modular process plants — valued at $10 million to $200 million each — that ENGlobal typically pursues.

ENGlobal's emphasis on renewable energy is paying off, especially now. That's because this sector is less susceptible to economic harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic and to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, according to Coskey.

"To the contrary, the green and renewable energy sector is driven by a different set of project economics — the majority of which play directly to our core strengths and capabilities," Coskey said during the November 5 earnings call.

ENGlobal comprises two business units that are capitalizing on those core strengths and capabilities:

  • Engineering, procurement, and construction management
  • Automation

Through September 26, the automation segment of the business accounted for 63 percent of the company's revenue this year, with engineering, procurement, and construction at 37 percent. In the third quarter, the balance was roughly 50-50.

For the nine-month period ended September 26, ENGlobal posted a 33 percent increase in revenue compared with the same period a year earlier. Revenue for the period rose 37 percent in the automation segment of the business and 27 percent in the engineering, procurement, and construction management segment.

Looking ahead, Coskey says plants like the one employing the Haldor Topsoe technology are "a big area of growth for us."

"We've built a business which is really vertically integrated. We can engineer and design, we can mechanically fabricate the processing modules, we can automate them, we can go onto the site and start them up. So we have full-service capabilities," Coskey says in an interview.

Those capabilities are helping ENGlobal, which Coskey started in 1985, capitalize on what he dubs the "energy revolution" in the U.S.

"Oil and gas has a long runway and is sometimes not given enough credit," he says. "But I can tell you that the capital spending for traditional oil and gas projects pretty much dried up during the course of this year. And we had to look for other sources of work for our people, so we were fortunate to have these renewable energy projects to work on."

Evercore ESI predicts capital spending on energy exploration and production in the U.S. will fall 43 percent this year compared with 2019. Meanwhile, S&P Global Market Intelligence forecasts $14.26 billion in capital spending this year on renewable energy by major U.S. utilities, up more than 20 percent from an earlier projection for 2020. The share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable energy is expected to increase from 18 percent in 2019 to 20 percent this year and 21 percent in 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

"There's a lot of money that used to flow into oil and gas projects that now seems to be flowing into renewable energy projects," Coskey says. "We were lucky to identify that early and be positioned to capture some of that."

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston doctors recognized among top creative leaders in business

winners

This week, Fast Company announced its 14th annual list of Most Creative People in Business — and two notable Houstonians made the cut.

Dr. Peter Hotez and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were named among the list for “open sourcing a COVID-19 Vaccine for the rest of the world.” The list, which recognizes individuals making a cultural impact via bold achievements in their field, is made up of influential leaders in business.

Hotez and Bottazzi are also co-directors for the Texas Children's Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development -one of the most cutting-edge vaccine development centers in the world. For the past two decades it has acquired an international reputation as a non-profit Product Development Partnership (PDP), advancing vaccines for poverty-related neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and emerging infectious diseases of pandemic importance. One of their most notable achievements is the development of a vaccine technology leading to CORBEVAX, a traditional, recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine.

"It's an honor to be recognized not only for our team's scientific efforts to develop and test low cost-effective vaccines for global health, but also for innovation in sustainable financing that goes beyond the traditional pharma business model," says Hotez in a statement.

The technology was created and engineered by Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development specifically to combat the worldwide problem of vaccine access and availability. Biological E Limited (BE) developed, produced and tested CORBEVAX in India where over 60 million children have been vaccinated so far.

Earlier this year, the doctors were nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for their research and vaccine development of the vaccine. Its low cost, ease of production and distribution, safety, and acceptance make it well suited for addressing global vaccine inequity.

"We appreciate the recognition of our efforts to begin the long road to 'decolonize' the vaccine development ecosystem and make it more equitable. We hope that CORBEVAX becomes one of a pipeline of new vaccines developed against many neglected and emerging infections that adversely affect global public health," says Bottazzi in the news release from Texas Children's.

Fast Company editors and writers research candidates for the list throughout the year, scouting every business sector, including technology, medicine, engineering, marketing, entertainment, design, and social good. You can see the complete list here

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Samsung sets sights on nearly $200 billion expansion in Texas

chipping in

As it builds a $17 billion chipmaking factory in Taylor, tech giant Samsung is eyeing a long-term strategy in the Texas area that could lead to a potential investment of close to $200 billion.

Samsung’s plans, first reported by the Austin Business Journal, call for an additional $192.1 billion investment in the Austin area over several decades that would create at least 10,000 new jobs at 11 new chipmaking plants. These facilities would be at the new Taylor site and the company’s existing site in Northeast Austin.

The first of the 11 new plants wouldn’t be completed until 2034, according to the Business Journal.

“Samsung has a history already in the Austin market as an employer of choice, providing high wages, great benefits, and a great working environment. All of this will be on steroids in the not-too-distant future, creating a historic boost to the already booming Austin economy,” John Boyd Jr., a corporate site selection consultant, tells CultureMap.

Samsung’s preliminary plans were revealed in filings with the State of Texas seeking possible financial incentives for the more than $190 billion expansion. The South Korean conglomerate says the filings are part of the company’s long-range planning for U.S. chipmaking facilities.

Given that Samsung’s 11 new plants would be decades in the making, there’s no certainty at this point that any part of the potential $192.1 billion expansion will ever be built.

Last November, Samsung announced it would build a $17 billion chipmaking factory in Taylor to complete its semiconductor operations in Northeast Austin. Construction is underway, with completion set for 2024. Boyd proclaimed last year that the Taylor project will trigger an “economic tsunami” in the quiet Williamson County suburb.

The Taylor facility, which is expected to employ more than 2,000 people, ranks among the largest foreign economic development projects in U.S. history. The impact of a nearly $200 billion cluster of 11 new chipmaking plants would far eclipse the Taylor project.

The Taylor factory will produce advanced chips that power mobile and 5G capabilities, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.