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Talos makes $1.3B acquisition, Sunnova's new tech partner, and more trending Houston news

Sunnova has a new partner — and more of the most-read articles on EnergyCapital from the week. Photo via Sunnova

Editor's note: From a new Houston energy transition exec to strategic partnerships and acquisitions, these are the top headlines that resonated with EnergyCapital readers on social media and daily newsletter this week.

New leadership team named climate tech-focused organization for Texas college students

David Pruner will lead the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, known as TEX-E. Photo via LinkedIn

A collaborative initiative between several colleges and Greentown Labs has named its inaugural executive director.

David Pruner will lead the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, known as TEX-E, which is comprised of partners including Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and universities across Texas. Additionally, Julia Johansson was appointed chief of staff for TEX-E and will oversee operations and administration responsibilities.

“Dave is the ideal leader for TEX-E to build on the great work that’s been done to develop a robust entrepreneurial energy ecosystem across these five impressive universities in Texas and to directly inspire and support university students to pursue entrepreneurial careers that will power our clean energy future,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. Continue reading.

Houston solar company taps new tech partner for energy management

Through the new partnership, Sunnova will fold the Lumin Smart Panel energy management platform into its Adaptive Home product. Images via luminsmart.com

Houston-based Sunnova Energy International, a provider of renewable energy for homes and businesses, has teamed up with Lumin, a maker of energy management technology, to roll out a new offering to homeowners.

Through the new partnership, Sunnova will fold the Lumin Smart Panel energy management platform into its Adaptive Home product. The partnership is scheduled to kick off in the first quarter of 2024.

Sunnova’s Adaptive Home combines solar power, battery storage, and smart energy management.Continue reading.

Houston energy company makes strategic acquisition in $1.29B deal

Talos, a technology-based energy company that aims to work towards low-carbon solutions, acquired QuarterNorth Energy Inc. Photo via talosenergy.com

Houston-based Talos Energy Inc. announced a $1.29 billion acquisition this month.

Talos, a technology-based energy company that aims to work towards low-carbon solutions, acquired QuarterNorth Energy Inc., which has ownership in several big offshore fields, and is a privately-held U.S. Gulf of Mexico exploration and production company. The acquisition of the assets are expected to provide additional scale from high quality deepwater assets “with a favorable base decline profile along with attractive future development opportunities” from QuarterNorth. Continue reading.

This Houston energy tech company to move the needle on building efficiency, air quality

After winning CodeLaunch last year, Matt Bonasera, enterprise architect at E360, looks forward to the future of the energy tech company. Photo by Natalie Harms/InnovationMap

Houston-based energy efficiency company Energy 360 is working to balance what is often viewed as a tradeoff between high quality clean air and energy efficiency within corporate buildings.

E360 is a subsidiary of InTech Energy, a software company that provides a variety of energy efficiency solutions for commercial spaces. The enterprise architect of E360, Matt Bonasera, says the platform functions as an energy management system as it monitors air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and can adjust electricity usage among a host of other outputs.

“We are trying to holistically look at each building instead of just looking at it purely from the energy efficiency perspective or purely from looking at it from a health perspective,” Bonasera says. Continue reading.

Oxy's sustainability subsidiary announces DAC agreement with commodities group

Here's 1PoinFive's newest customer on its Texas CCUS project. Photo via 1pointfive.com

Oxy's carbon capture, utilization and sequestration company announced it's latest carbon dioxide removal credits purchasing agreement with a global commodities group.

Trafigura has agreed to purchase carbon dioxide removal credits to be produced from 1PointFive’s first industrial-scale Direct Air Capture facility, Stratos, that is being built in Texas. Continue reading.

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A View From HETI

Investors in Houston and across Texas are proving to be transformational partners to finance and grow energy hardware startups. Photo via Getty Images

Texas is a national leader in wind and solar, generating more energy in these categories than any other state since 2006 and double that of next placed California. As investment in renewable energy continues to skyrocket, the limitations of the 19th-century grid prevent the industry from realizing the benefits of this 21st-century technology.

For years, Texas has grappled with insufficient infrastructure for its current mix of energy sources, which includes surging renewables. The Alternating Current (AC) grid — the standard since the 1800s — requires matching supply and demand in real-time to maintain a stable frequency, which is complex and costly, especially with renewable energy when the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

Startup firms are busy developing technologies to solve this issue. For example, it’s possible to modernize the AC grid to control the voltage of the distribution network precisely, to ensure fast adjustments to demand, and to adapt to changes in supply from renewables. Enoda, a U.K.-based scale-up, is an example of an innovative company developing and delivering technology to enable the AC grid to accommodate much higher levels of renewable energy and electrification.

Equally important to these technical innovations are innovations in financing for energy startups. On two levels, investors in Houston and across Texas are proving to be transformational partners to finance and grow energy hardware startups.

1. Innovative Funding Structures

Because of the long timelines, hardware investing requires, in part, more patient capital than the typical Silicon Valley venture capital model prevalent in startup investments. Their playbook is best suited for software companies that develop new features in weeks or months. Energy hardware startups require a longer timeline because of the far greater complexity and upfront capital outlay.

Texas investment firms and family offices are, however, accustomed to investing in complex energy projects with longer development timelines. This complexity presents a high barrier to entry for competitors, which significantly increases the upside potential that risk-capital investors seek should the innovation find market traction. At the same time, up-front capital requirements have decreased considerably, making hardware more appealing to investors.

2. Visionary partnership

Attracting investors and demonstrating early-stage traction differs for hardware companies because of the lengthy pre-revenue R&D process. Software innovators can launch with a minimum viable product, gain a few early customers, and then grow incrementally. By contrast, energy hardware technology must be fully developed from launch. Each Enoda PRIME exchanger, from the first unit sold, represents a piece of critical infrastructure on which households will rely for their electricity supply for its 30-year lifespan. For venture investors who focus on software, it’s easy to assess the health of a software company based on well-established metrics related to customer growth and the cost of customer acquisition.

Hardware investing requires investors to have a much deeper understanding of the problem being solved and assess the quality of the solution objectively rather than rely on early customers for a minimum viable product. Texas investors have been quick to understand the problems that the energy industry must solve around energy balancing and keeping the frequency of a system stable in order to grow renewable energy. Why the keen insight? Because that problem is being solved today by gas power plants. A visionary investor with many years of deep industry perspective is far more likely to appreciate that than a VC firm looking across many industries based on a standard set of metrics.

Visionary partnership is precisely what energy startups need because it’s important not to evaluate the company as it is today but what it will be in five years. Hardware startups need visionary investor partners who understand the importance of parallel pathing fundamental innovation, product development and delivery, and customer development to grow and succeed. Hardware startups succeed only when they can do these things simultaneously—and require investors who can imagine a possible future and understand the path to reach it.

Changing the way investment works

Many energy startups are worthy inheritors of Houston’s bold entrepreneurial spirit that led to technological innovations like deep-sea drilling and hydraulic fracturing. They will continue to need equally bold investors who recognize the world of opportunities at their doorstep.

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Paul Domjan is the founder and chief policy and global affairs officer at Enoda. Derek Jones and Paul Morico are partners at Baker Botts.

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