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New corporate-backed program announced, startup raises $41M, and more top Houston energy transition stories

These are the most-read articles on EnergyCapital from the week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: From a new solar energy tech hub to a major climate tech accelerator announcement for Houston, these are the top headlines that resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter this week.

Woodside Energy backs $12.5M clean energy accelerator for new technologies

Woodside Energy has committed $12.5 million to a new partnership with Rice University. Photo via Instagram/WoodsideEnergy

A global Australian energy company with its international operations in Houston has backed a new climatetech accelerator in partnership with Rice University.

Woodside Energy, headquartered in Australia with its global operations in Houston following its 2022 acquisition of BHP Group, has committed $12.5 million over the next five years to create the Woodside Rice Decarbonization Accelerator.

"The goal of the accelerator is to fast track the commercialization of innovative decarbonization technologies created in Rice labs," Rice University President Reginald DesRoches says to a crowd at the Ion at the initiative's announcement. "These technologies have the potential to make better batteries, transitistors, and other critical materials for energy technologies. In addition, the accelerator will work on manufacturing these high-value products from captured and converted carbon dioxide and methane." Continue reading.

Houston entrepreneur crowdfunding for sustainable farming solution

Bart Womack founded Eden Grow Systems in 2017. Photo courtesy

Whether it’s on Mars or at the kitchen table, entrepreneur Bart Womack wants to change what and how you eat.

But the CEO and founder of next-generation farming startup Eden Grow Systems is seeking crowdfunders to help feed the venture.

The company evokes images of a garden paradise on earth. But the idea behind the Houston-based NASA spinoff came from a more pragmatic view of the world. Womack’s company sells indoor food towers, self-contained, modular plant growth systems built on years of research by NASA scientists looking for the best way to feed astronauts in space.

The company has launched a $1.24 million regulated crowdfunding campaign to raise the money it needs to scale and expand manufacturing outside the current location in Washington state. Continue reading.

Solar energy company to open new tech center in Houston

The new center will house Sunnova technologies, including a microgrid system powered by a grid simulator and a solar array simulator with the ability to replicate various grid and solar array conditions. Photo via sunnova.com

A Houston energy services company has announced the upcoming opening of a state-of-the-art energy testing and integration technologies hub.

Sunnova Energy International Inc. will open the Sunnova Adaptive Technology Center in 2024. The center, which will come sometime in the first quarter of the year, is part of Sunnova Adaptive Home, Sunnova Adaptive Business, and Sunnova Adaptive Community service offerings. Founded in Houston in 2012, Sunnova aims to “create a better energy service at a better price.”

The ATC will house Sunnova technologies, including a microgrid system powered by a grid simulator and a solar array simulator with the ability to replicate various grid and solar array conditions. An interchangeable inverter and battery test beds, and a fully-functioning model home equipped with full-sized appliances, including a range, oven, refrigerator and HVAC system, will also be part of the new ATC. Continue reading.

Houston energy analytics company garners $41M in growth capital

Houston-based Welligence Energy Analytics specializes in data and intelligence for the oil and gas markets, greenhouse gas emissions sector, and CCUS projects. Photo via Getty Images

A group of investors has chipped in $41 million to purchase a minority stake in Houston-based Welligence Energy Analytics, a provider of energy data and intelligence.

Boston-based venture capital firm Elephant Partners led the series B round, with participation from Veriten, a Houston-based, energy-focused research, investing, and strategy firm, and EDG, a Metairie, Louisiana-based energy consulting firm. Several executives from the energy, information services, and software sectors also contributed to the round.

Founded in 2016, Welligence specializes in data and intelligence for the oil and gas markets, greenhouse gas emissions sector, and carbon capture, storage, and utilization (CCUS) projects. Clients include major oil and gas companies, as well as large investment banks. Continue reading.

New York law firm appoints another energy practice partner in Houston

Dale Smith, an energy finance and transactions attorney, has joined Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. Photo via Willkie.com

A law firm again expanded its Houston-based, energy-focused team.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP announced that energy finance and transactions attorney Dale Smith has joined the firm as a partner in the Corporate & Financial Services Department, which will be based in the Houston office. Willkie provides legal solutions to businesses that address critical issues that affect multiple industries and markets with 13 offices worldwide.

Smith was most recently a partner at Mayer Brown, and prior to law, he worked in the electric and gas utility industry as an analyst for Entergy. He currently serves on the Institute for Energy Law Advisory Board. He will manage energy clients in a broad range of transactions from upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas, renewable energy, power and energy finance deals. Continue reading.

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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