Energy transition opportunities are heading to Texas and beyond, according to these experts

At a recent event in Houston, energy transition experts shared opportunities in renewables and sustainability. Photo by Lindsey Ferrell/EnergyCapital

The energy industry in Houston, Texas, and beyond is gearing up for new opportunities within the energy transition, as a recent Houston event and its lineup of experts shared.

At the inaugural ENERGYEAR USA 2023, panelists outlined how their companies are opting into a more personable approach to building sustainable energy solutions – and sustainable communities.

“Most of our renewable projects are in very rural areas. We come to communities that don’t have enough money to invest in their schools, their kids. There’s not a lot of opportunity,” explains David Carroll, chief renewables officer and senior vice president of the North America region for Engie.

“We come in and invest a lot in the construction phase, but after that, we have workers that live there. We are often one of the largest taxpayers in that area,” Carroll continues. “We can provide them cash profit, provide them the tax base, so that we can help provide a future in many of these rural communities that were struggling before we got there.”

Engie, which has closed several coal plants globally ahead of schedule to work toward meeting their commitment to Net Zero by 2045, isn’t the only organization that emphasizes purpose in its pursuit of energy equity.

Power Electronics, the global leader in renewable energy storage, finds purpose through re-purposing field technicians. For the past five years, the organization has transformed talent with electrical equipment experience from the oil and gas industry into renewables. The company doesn’t plan on slowing down, either.

“We are proud to announce here today [that over] the next two years, we will create more than 500 jobs as the largest ever manufacturer of solar inverter and intermediate scale battery inverters in the U.S.,” shares David Salvo, CEO of Power Electronics. “We start manufacturing EV chargers in Houston later this year and are committed to U.S. manufacturing job creation.”

The company saw a need for setting up a Texas manufacturing facility to support growth and was impressed by the volume of Houston talent possessing a deep understanding of both mechanical and electrical equipment from their tenure in upstream oil and gas.

“It is easier to find people here [like that] than anywhere else,” Salvo tells EnergyCapitalHTX. “That is a fact.”

Explosive growth for the region has barely even begun, with expected investments in Texas alone exceeding $60 billion dollars in large scale renewables.

“Because of these investments that we are making, we are able to create good paying jobs… and meet climate goals of getting to a Net Zero economy by 2050,” Jeff Marootian, U.S Department of Energy senior advisor, tells Katie Mehnert, CEO of Ally Energy and DOE Ambassador, during their fireside chat.

“Partnership between government and private sector, ultimately, is creating these opportunities,” Marootian says. “Our challenge is to help identify, help train, help build up that generation of workforce.”

As a final note on the trifecta of purpose, partnering, and governance, Erika Bierschbach, vice president of energy market operations and resource planning for Austin Energy, challenges the power and utilities industry to embrace statistical models over deterministic ones when forecasting energy supply and demand. The upstream oil and gas sector embraced this practice years ago to improve production optimization processes.

On the subject of green energy employment, a recent report found that Houston is a successful hub when it comes to clean energy jobs. SmartAsset, a personal finance website, recently ranked the Houston metro area as the fifth best place in the U.S. for green jobs, which pay an average of 21 percent more than other jobs. And actually, the study found that 2.23 percent of workers in the Houston area hold down jobs classified as “green.”

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A View From HETI

Discovery Green's Earth Day event generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage — and over 90 percent of it was diverted from landfills. Photo courtesy of Discovery Green

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day

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