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The key to making Houston the next renewable energy capital is collaboration

Houston can be the renewable energy capital — it has all the ingredients. Photo via Getty Images

Will Houston become the renewable energy capital of America? It's entirely possible.

While the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to the city's 4,600 energy firms, Houston's energy sector is resilient and can rebuild by prioritizing new jobs in cleantech and renewables.

Earlier this year, the city announced its commitment to using 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal operations by 2025 as part of its Climate Action Plan, a strategic approach for how Houston's residents and businesses can reduce their carbon emissions.

Houston is well-positioned to implement many of the strategies outlined in the plan. Building optimization and materials management can be boosted by the city's powerful construction and engineering workforce. And while it may surprise some, Houston could soon rival California for the number of electric vehicles on the road. Texas has the second highest number of charging stations in the country and the city of Houston leads the state overall.

At Bulb, we're proud to support the city's energy transition efforts by providing people with affordable renewable energy. Houston currently has almost a fifth of Bulb members, the most of any city in Texas.

While switching to a renewable energy provider is one way to make an immediate impact in lowering carbon emissions, the work involved in creating a truly green recovery is complex and must involve many players.

With that in mind, here are three tips we're using to make the green recovery a reality for all Texans. If we can help other like-minded companies to thrive, it's a win-win for everyone:

1. If you build it (with them), they will come

We should ask all Texans about what they want from the future of energy. We regularly ask our members to weigh in on what we should build at Bulb through informal monthly chats, focus groups and usability sessions. We ask what kinds of tools would make it easy for our members to manage their energy use and what kind of investments in technology they would like Bulb to make?

When people engage with us, we ask for more. Texans are savvy about their energy and want to be a part of the process.

2. Provide clear, actionable steps

The climate crisis is often split along political lines, but the reality is that most Texans believe we should prioritize clean energy. In fact, a recent poll found that 60 percent of registered Texas voters support transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy has gotten cheaper and cheaper, so if someone can save money while also protecting the state they love, they will. Start with this assumption and give people clear, actionable steps. You can switch to renewable energy in two minutes. You can refer your friends and family to increase your impact. You can talk about your impact in a simple way.

We discovered early on that when people can visualize the impact they're having by using your service, they're motivated to do more. In case you're curious, the average Bulb member reduces their annual carbon impact by 8.42 tons of carbon dioxide. That's the weight of nine burly longhorns.

3. Keep it hopeful

Climate change is inevitable but we can still lessen its impacts. And we cannot do it without hope. When people become overwhelmed with climate anxiety, they cease to act.

We try to inspire and encourage our members by giving them bite-sized ways they can make an impact and celebrating the small wins. The actions needed to dramatically reduce our emissions must ultimately happen at a structural level, but we need to have hope to play the long game.


If folks believe in what we're doing and ultimately go with another renewable energy provider, that's okay. The green recovery will be more successful when companies compete. And we truly believe there's room for everyone.

Think about how these ideas could play out in your business. Are there opportunities to engage with your customers more closely? Do you make it easy for them to sign up? Do you give them reasons to tell their community about you? Finally, do they understand how they're making a difference?

These are some of the actions we've taken since launching in Texas, and we hope they're helpful to you as well. Together, we're confident that Houston will continue to lead in energy, in new and unexpected ways.

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Vinnie Campo is the U.S. country manager for Bulb, a company that focuses on affordable renewable energy from Texas wind and solar.

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Building Houston

 
 

New study shows Houston has minority-owned startups than any other Texas city. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Both Houston and the state of Texas earned high rankings on a recent study by Self Financial that looked at the percentage of minority-owned startups in regions across the U.S.

"Today there are nearly 170 thousand minority-owned startups in the U.S., employing over 700 thousand people and generating close to $100 billion in annual revenue," the report said. "Based on demographic trends, these numbers are likely to grow as the population continues to diversify on racial and ethnic lines."

According to the report, about 30 percent of startups in Greater Houston are minority-owned. This is the fifth highest percentage in the country. There are nearly 5,600 minority-owned startups in the MSA, employing more than 22,700 people and bringing in more than $3.1 billion annually, the report found.

The Bayou City outranked New York but just a tenth of a percentage. But neighboring San Antonio edged out the Bayou City for the No. 4 spot, with roughly 31 percent of startups being minority-owned.

The top three cities on the list were all in California. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro had the highest percentage of minority-owned start ups. Roughly 46 percentage of startups there are minority-owned. The Los Angeles area and San Bernardino area followed in the second and third spots, respectively.

Dallas was the only other Texas metro to make the cut. According to the study, roughly 24 percent of startups there are minority-owned, earning it a No. 9 spot on the list.

The state earned a No. 4 spot on a similar ranking. According to that report, nearly 27 percent of startups in Texas are minority-owned and are responsible for employing more than 87,000 individuals and turn out roughly $11.5 billion in sales annually.

Still, Self Financial argues that minorities are underrepresented in the startup economy in cities, states, and throughout the U.S.

"Non-Hispanic whites, who represent around 60 percent of the U.S. population, own nearly 80 percent of the nation's startup businesses," the report says.

In Houston, nearly 64 percent of the population is considered a minority. And yet, those individuals only represent about 30 percent of startup ownership. Even in top-ranked San Jose the gap is wide. The population in the metro has a 68 percent minority share, and only 46 percent of startups are minority-owned.

St. Louis had the narrowest margin among large, high-rated metros. Minorities represent about 26 percent of the population there, and 25 percent go startups in the city are minority-owned.

In Texas minorities represent about 59 percent of the population, but only 27 percent of startup ownership. Nationwide minorities represent about 40 percent of the population but own about 20 percent of startups, according to the study..

Nationally minorities are most represented in the start-up economy in the accommodation, food services, and retail sectors. And the report adds that the demographic has faced exceptional challenges in 2020—from a business perspective, the largest roadblock was (and is often) access to capital.

"Minority households have lower pre-existing levels of wealth and savings to put towards a new business, while banks and other creditors are less likely to approve loans for Black or Hispanic small-business owners than they are for white business owners," the report says. "Without upfront capital to invest in a growing business, minority entrepreneurs struggle to run and scale their operations.

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