year in review
Here are this year's most-read guest columns from Houston energy experts
Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, EnergyCapital is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston energy transition. Each week, we've published one or two guest contributor pieces ranging in topic from business advice to industry observations. There are five from this year that readers really gravitated toward — be sure to click through the links below to read the full story.
4 layoff alternatives energy businesses should consider in a downturn, according to this Houston expert
Here's what you should consider if you need to make cuts to your business — now or in the future. Photo via Getty Images
Preparing for a potential economic downturn can be unsettling for employers and employees. As payroll is typically one of the largest expenditures for a business, no matter its size, layoffs seem like the quickest fix. While this may offer short-term relief, they can severely impact operations and workplace culture.
When staff is reduced, culture can suffer. Employee morale can decrease and distrust may build, especially if layoffs are not communicated properly. This can lead to the remaining employees feeling anxious about their own future with the organization and spur them to look for employment elsewhere, which can affect an organization’s overall productivity and day-to-day operations.
Business owners should get creative and consider the impact and the many alternatives before resorting to workforce reductions. Continue reading the article by Karen Leal of Insperity.
Balancing renewable energy growth and grid resilience requires a multifaceted approach. Photo via Getty Images
The global energy sector is on an exhilarating trajectory, teeming with promising technologies and unprecedented opportunities for a sustainable future. Yet, we find ourselves grappling with the challenges of reliability and affordability. As both a researcher in the field of power electronics and a consumer with bills to pay, I find myself experiencing mixed feelings.
As a researcher, I am thrilled by the progress we have achieved, particularly in energy conversion. The exponential growth of renewable energy technologies in Texas and beyond, including wind turbines and solar PV systems, is cause for celebration. These innovations, coupled with supportive policies, have facilitated widespread deployment and the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and create a brighter future for our children.
While renewable energy resources can play a crucial role in maintaining the supply-demand balance of the grid, as they did by performing very well during the recent 2023 Texas heat wave, their intermittent and unpredictable nature can also pose a significant challenge to the power system. Unlike traditional power plants that operate continuously, wind turbines and solar PV systems rely on weather conditions for optimal performance. Fluctuations in wind speed, cloud cover, and sunlight intensity can lead to imbalances between energy supply and demand. This imbalance will worsen as the anticipated influx of electric vehicles and their charging needs come into play. Continue reading the article by Harish Krishnamoorthy of the University of Houston.
Katie Mehnert reflects on the progress Houston has made within the energy transition and future of work following her experience ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy of ALLY
As I stood on the platform at the world’s largest stock exchange to ring the closing bell, surrounded by 130 people from across the energy industry, I saw it clearly: how the private sector will play a major role in getting us to an era of net zero. The people who power the energy industry will do the hard work. We’ve already begun. And we’re unafraid of the long journey ahead — something more than 40 of us exemplified that weekend by running a marathon.
The trip to New York City days ago was an exhilarating whirlwind. But it was also something much more: A chance to show the markets, the nation, and the world that Houston is leading the energy transition. (It didn’t hurt that we popped up on Good Morning America.)
From the beginning, the idea behind this pair of events — ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and running the TCS New York City Marathon — was aimed at sending crucial messages. That recognizing climate change and building solutions is an obligation and an opportunity. That the energy industry understands this. That investors have good reason to support climate tech, one of the most exciting and fastest growing sectors. And, last but not least, that people’s perceptions of Houston as being all about oil and gas are simply wrong. Continue reading the article by Katie Mehnert of Ally Energy.
The question the Houston business community must be able to answer today is “Are we going to be ready for 2035?” Photo via Getty Images
In 1914, Winston Churchill faced a difficult decision. Over two decades before his first term as Prime Minister during World War 2, he oversaw the entire Royal Navy as First Lord of the Admiralty. Shipbuilding technology was rapidly evolving in that era and one of the key questions was whether to use coal or oil as fuel for the large ships in the fleet. Coal was the more proven technology at that point and the British had a strong supply chain across the Empire. Oil was lighter and easier to operate, but the worldwide supply and infrastructure were still limited.
Ultimately Churchill was persuaded by Admiral Jacky Fisher and others to convert the entire fleet to oil. To resolve the supply chain issue, the British government bought a majority stake in Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which became BP. The Royal Navy was possibly the largest consumer of fuel worldwide at the time, so this decision had a major effect on the energy transition in that era. Within 30 years, steam engines were no longer used for transportation in most of the world.
In that same decade, Houston emerged as a leading energy hub in the United States: Humble Oil was founded, the Houston Ship Channel was dredged, and the Baytown Refinery was constructed. World War I in Europe, and the mass adoption of cars in the US spurred a major increase in demand for oil. Oil went on to dominate the global energy market, providing cheap and reliable transportation, industrial production, and materials. Houston grew and prospered along with it to become the 5th largest metro area in the country today. Continue reading the article by Drew Philpot of Blended Power.
Houston’s broad energy sector can attract engineering expertise and clean tech talent, serving as a locus for knowledge-sharing on the financial and operational challenges ahead in the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images
The future of energy holds monumental and diverse expectations. Houston’s long history as the hub for oil and gas development – combined with its growing and important role in development of renewables, carbon capture, and other energy innovation – makes it a critical meeting point for discussions on strategy, investment, and stakeholder engagement in the energy transition.
In our research last fall, we detailed how the oil and gas industry was embracing capital discipline and prioritizing shareholder returns. The industry generated record cash flows and offered a combined dividend and share buyback yield of 8 percent in 2022—the highest among all industries. The industry’s commitment to maintaining capital discipline and investing in viable low-carbon projects has only strengthened in 2023.
In fact, according to our most recent research, the global upstream oil and gas industry is estimated to generate between $2.5 trillion to $4.6 trillion in free cash flow between 2023 and 2030. With capital availability not posing a significant constraint, boardrooms of oil and gas companies are engaged in discussions regarding capital allocation between hydrocarbons and low-carbon solutions, while striving to achieve desired rates of return and meet stakeholder expectations for dividend payouts. Continue reading the article by Amy Chronis and Kate Hardin of Deloitte.