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Visiting Daikin: Houston energy transition innovation is the heart of operations

Daikin is the world’s leading air conditioning and refrigeration company, with its US headquarters and North America manufacturing facility based in Waller, Texas. Photo via htxenergytransition.org

In the energy capital of the world, we often think and talk about the energy transition and low carbon solutions in the context of energy production and distribution – whether it’s adding more renewables to the grid, reducing the CO2 emissions of our existing energy resources with CCUS and Hydrogen, developing energy storage technology to manage intermittency, or deploying other innovative solutions designed to produce or deliver more energy with fewer emissions – Houston is leading on all fronts.

But these aren’t the only solutions needed as we seek to solve one of the most challenging issues of our time. We cannot focus only on innovating the production and distribution of energy. As the demand for energy grows, locally and globally, we must also think innovatively about reducing the demand for energy, while still maintaining, and improving, quality of life. I had the opportunity recently to visit a company that is doing just that, right here in the Houston region.

Daikin is the world’s leading air conditioning and refrigeration company, with their US headquarters and North America manufacturing facility based right here, just 30 minutes northwest of downtown Houston in Waller, Texas. The Daikin Texas Technology Park, a 4.2 million ft2 facility, equal to 74 football fields, is dedicated to developing, manufacturing and marketing innovative solutions for meeting its customers’ needs while also reducing the energy required to keep people cool. Currently, air conditioning accounts for around 10% of global electricity consumption, with rapid demand growth expected in the future. As electrification becomes a key pathway to the decarbonization of various industries, demand for low-carbon power will continue to grow.

Achieving an affordable, reliable, and low-carbon future will require innovation across the entire energy value chain – from production to consumption, and, as the world’s leading air conditioning manufacturer, Daikin, is leading the way in developing innovative solutions to achieve optimum comfort and energy savings.

Three things struck me during my recent visit to the Daikin Texas Technology Park (DTTP):

  1. Innovation is at the heart of their operation. The integration of engineering and manufacturing in a single location facilitates collaboration and product innovation and accelerates implementation. The LEED Gold Certified facility was also innovatively designed to maximize energy efficiency and minimize environmental impact.
  2. People are a priority. The diversity of the 8000+ employees working at the DTTP was incredible. During the visit, we had the opportunity to see team members from many different backgrounds and with various skills and education working in all parts of their operation. They also offer a STEM scholarship program in partnership with the Waller Area Chamber of Commerce.
  3. They are environmentally focused. Daikin is fully committed to providing energy solutions that improve quality of life while also reducing environmental impact through improved efficiency. The heating and air conditioning products manufactured at the DTTP are some of the most innovative and energy efficient products on the market today – producing a more even temperature and offering as much as a 30% reduction in energy use compared to standard AC systems, all with a considerably smaller footprint.

As someone who spends a great deal of time thinking about the pathways to solving the global dual challenge of more energy with fewer emissions, much of my time is spent learning about innovations on the supply side of energy. It is exciting to learn that there is just as much innovation happening on the demand side of energy – and to see it happening right here in Houston.

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This article was written by Jane Stricker, executive director and senior vice president of theGreater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative and originally ran on the HETI blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.

To learn more about Daikin’s entire line of innovative heating and air conditioning products and how they are Perfecting the Air, visit the Daikin global website.

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Nádia Skorupa Parachin joined Cemvita as vice president of industrial biotechnology. Photo courtesy of Cemvita

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

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