Buckle up for the 2024 Houston Auto Show this week, which will prominently feature EV tech. Photo via Houston Auto Show/Facebook

Houston Auto Show, which is a long running event for auto enthusiasts, will feature its largest electronic vehicle representation to date this year.

The event will feature an EV Pavillion and Evolve Houston’s electronic showroom at the January 24 to 28 event at NRG Center. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about what it means to go the EV route from environmental impact, performance, cost effectiveness, and other factors.

This year, vehicles like Nissan's Ariya Platinum+ AWD, Chevrolet’s Bolt EV, Ford’s F-150 Lightning and others will be on display at the EV Pavillion. CenterPoint Energy, Reliant, and the University of Houston were part of Evolve's 2023 showroom.

A recent study from SmartAsset ranked states with the most electric vehicle chargers by looking at the closest equivalent to a trip to the gas station, in terms of “refueling” – per capita. Texas is behind other similarly-sized states.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities, and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Casey Brown, executive director and president of EVOLVE, previously told EnergyCapital. “We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies. One way that we share these benefits is being the Presenting Sponsor of the Houston Auto Show.”

Houston Automobile Dealers Association Executive Vice President and event organizer RoShelle Salinas has noted there has been an uptick in EV demand for these events since the first one debuted at the 2020 show.

Evolve Houston, which was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan, is one of the organizations leading the way in the EV space, as the company still aims for its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030. Evolve assists and funds those looking to make the transition to electric with the Grant Tracker, which aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment.

The Biden administration recently announced it is awarding $623 million in grants to help build an electric vehicle charging network across the nation. Grants will fund 47 EV charging stations and related projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, including 7,500 EV charging ports according to officials. Texas is expected to see a chunk of that funding. Last year, the city of Houston approved $281,000 funding for the expansion of free electric vehicle rideshare services in communities that are considered underserved by utilizing services like RYDE and Evolve Houston.

“Evolve Houston has been a sponsor for 2 years and their display has been a great addition to the show because it is not only educational, but there is also a chance for people to test drive vehicles,” Salinas says.

Need a RYDE? The city voted to provide funding to expand the electric vehicle initiative. Photo via Evolve Houston

City approves funding for EV rideshare service in underserved communities in Houston

ryde-ing in style

The city of Houston approved $281,000 funding for the expansion of free electric vehicle rideshare services in communities that are considered underserved by utilizing services like RYDE and Evolve Houston.

The funding will be dispersed to RYDE in through the nonprofit Evolve Houston.

“It’s exciting to see a Mayor and City Council get behind a true eco-friendly initiative aimed and providing critical transportation needs for underserved communities,” Evolve Houston President and Executive Director Casey Brown says in a news release. “The program has seen amazing success in the Third Ward and now another historically underserved community will be able to benefit from a service that gets residents to and from in-town destinations for free.”

Rideshare service RYDE has been operating in Houston’s Third Ward since June with almost 3,000 passengers per month being served. The services will expand beyond Third Ward through Houston Complete Communities, which is a citywide initiative to bring innovation and assistance to the city’s underserved communities.

The two new vehicles are expected to hit the road early December, as well as the continued service of two vehicles in Third Ward.

“The positive aspects of expanding RYDE’s EV transportation initiative beyond Third Ward are twofold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in the release. “The environmental impact of the low-emission vehicles coupled with the vital service it provides to underserved neighborhoods makes this a win-win decision for the City of Houston and its residents who are faced with transportation challenges. This funding decision is in lockstep with Houston’s Climate Action Plan and the intention behind the Complete Communities initiative.”

Evolve Houston was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year. They recently released a Grant Tracker, which aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment. Ultimately, Evolve wants to assist and fund those looking to make the transition to electric. Evolve continues to evolve its sphere of influence, the company still aims for equity, and its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Brown says. “ We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies.”

Evolve Houston, founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year, has launched a new tool for EV incentivization. Photo via Evolve

This Houston organization is on a mission to shrink the city's carbon footprint — one EV at a time

driving energy transition

Equity and environmental impact characteristics often used to describe a company’s outlook on increased sustainability and fighting climate change.

Evolve Houston, which was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year, is one of the organizations leading the way, and now with their Grant Tracker program, they are giving back to those who are giving back to the planet.

“Raising awareness is a critical part of accelerating a new technology, this includes awareness of incentives that individuals and fleets in the Greater Houston region may be eligible for,” Casey Brown, executive director and president, tells EnergyCapital. “Beyond understanding incentives, most Houstonians have not experienced an EV for themselves. With the support of our Founding Members (Shell, NRG Energy, CenterPoint Energy, University of Houston, and the City of Houston), we offer educational and experiential ways for Houstonians to interact with EVs and learn more about the benefits.”

The Grant Tracker aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment. Ultimately, Evolve wants to assist and fund those looking to make the transition to electric.

Anup Parikh and his company Pangea Charging, through EVOLVE, was granted a project to help bring charging capacity for EVs to help build the infrastructure in areas and apartment complexes that traditionally would not have them.

“People see electric vehicles as high-end and a luxury lifestyle, when in fact it can happen for everybody,” Parikh said in a promotional video.

In addition to the Grant Tracker program, Evolve’s Mobility Microgrant Initiative will partner with local nonprofits,community reviewers, and corporate catalysts to award funding to eMobility projects aimed at serving mobility needs in Houston's underserved neighborhoods. In July, Evolve teamed up with RYDE and District D Council Member Carolyn Evans-Shabazz to bring the free on-demand electric local shuttle service to residents in the Third Ward area, which was one of the many microgrants associated with the project. RYDE’s service in the area has been extended recently into the fall and “until further notice” according to a newsletter from EVOLVE.

“Private investments in this sector follow EV adoption,“ Brown says. “Investing in areas early creates more opportunity for EV technology interaction and benefits.

"We are excited about the success of our Equity Program and the exciting projects it has funded across Houston," he continues. "Today, we accomplish this through our eMobility Microgrant Initiative, a community-led investment program focused on historically disadvantaged communities, and aimed to tackle community needs with electric vehicle technologies. We have had a very successful Round 1 of investments this year and we are excited to announce round two grant winners in January of 2024.”

As Evolve continues to evolve its sphere of influence, the company still aims for its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030. The company says that EVs should be for all Houstonians, not just for some.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities, and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Brown said. “We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies. One way that we share these benefits is being the Presenting Sponsor of the Houston Auto Show. We also summarize the local EV sector through our R.I.S.E. report and maintain an actionable, forward view in our EV Roadmap; both sources can be found on our website and are undergoing a refresh as we close 2023.”

Thirteen electric vehicle initiatives received grant funding from a city program. Photo via evolvehouston.org

Houston announces inaugural microgrant recipients working to make EVs more accessible

evolve with EVs

Evolve Houston awarded its inaugural microgrants this week to 13 groups, neighborhoods and an individual working to make electric vehicles accessible to all Houstonians.

Launched in 2022, Evolve's eMobility Microgrant Initiative supports community efforts that propose electric vehicle, micro-mobility and charging infrastructure projects in some of Houston's most underserved neighborhoods. The grants ranged from $10,000 to $15,000.

Shell, NRG, CenterPoint, the University of Houston, and the City of Houston are partners in Evolve Houston. GM and bp America helped found the microgrant program.

“The eMobility Microgrant Initiative is a culmination of my vision and the collaborative efforts from many individuals and corporate supporters who recognize the importance of the transition to electric transportation,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a statement. “The grant winners we recognized today are trailblazers in their communities, leveraging EV technology to residents in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved.”

Winners of the Round 1 eMobility Microgrants and their proposed projects included:

  • Alliance for Multicultural Community Services: Adding a charging station for the Gulfton area and a youth advocacy initiative
  • Third Ward Real Estate Council & Northern Third Ward Neighborhood Implementation Project: Introducing an interactive “mobility hub” to show what EV infrastructure would look like in Third Ward
  • Coalition of Community Organizations: Bringing eBikes and a charging station in the Fifth Ward
  • Edison Arts Foundation: Installing an EV charging station and green energy awareness at the Edison Center in Fort Bend
  • GROW: Promoting green energy careers to youth in underserved communities through EV education and outreach events
  • Hiram Clarke Fort Bend Houston Redevelopment Authority: Brining a bike share program to Southwest Houston
  • Houston Southeast: Expanding its existing rideshare program that offers free and reduced rides in partnership with Uber EV fleet of electric vehicles
  • Pangea Charging: Adding EV chargers to two Complete Communities apartment complexes/buildings
  • RYDE: Brining a free micro-transit service in the Third Ward, including two electric shuttles that could serve more than 1,000 passengers per month
  • Shawn R. Owens: Introducing a new eBike food delivery service, called Electric Eats, to bring food from from the Third Ward food pantries to the area's senior, underserved and immobile residents
  • South Union Community Development Corporation: Creating a workforce development program for green energy careers
  • The Reflections of Christ's Kingdom (The R.O.C.K.) Church–BroadwayCampus: Adding a DC-Fast charger in the South Houston/Hobby Airport area
  • University of Houston-Downtown: Installing a no-cost EV charging station on campus

“This program is designed to provide launch funding to community-based, EV ecosystem-related projects," says Evolve Houston President and Executive Director Casey Brown. "We see significant opportunities to make meaningful progress by using an exciting new technology that is centered around community-based direction. Our governance system puts the community in charge and knows that the ideas of those that know their communities best will carry the greatest impact.”

Applications for the second round of microgrants are now open. Information can be found here. The application deadline is Friday, September 22, 2023.

Evolve Houston was founded in 2019 through Houston's Climate Action Plan. The nonprofit relaunched in 2022, naming Brown as its new president and executive director. The organization's main goal is to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas and to accelerate EV adoption so that half of all new vehicles sold in the Houston area would be EVs by 2030.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the grant recipients last week. Photo via evolvehouston.org

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SLB to consolidate carbon capture business in partnership

M&A moves

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

3 top DOE researchers take professor positions at University of Houston

new hires

Three top researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have accepted joint appointments at the University of Houston.

“This strategic collaboration leverages the combined strengths of Argonne and the [university] to further critical research efforts, public-private partnerships, and educational opportunities for students in the energy transition and lead to transformational advancement of commercial scale energy industries,” Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president for energy and innovation at UH, says in a news release.

These appointments are part of a memorandum of understanding that Argonne, located in the Chicago area, recently signed with the Greater Houston Partnership. The agreement seeks to accelerate decarbonization efforts in the Houston area.

The three scientists appointed to positions are UH are:

  • Zach Hood, whose appointment is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. He’ll be hosted by Yan Yao, a UH professor who is principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity.
  • Jianlin Li, whose appointment also is in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He plans to establish a dry room facility at UH and conduct research on energy storage technologies, electrode processing, and cell manufacturing.
  • Michael Wang, the inaugural Distinguished Senior Scholar at UH’s Energy Transition Institute. His objectives include advancing research in decarbonizing the oil and gas sector through carbon management and transitioning to renewable energy sources. Wang will conduct seminars and present lectures in environmental sustainability, lifecycle, and techno-economic analysis of energy technologies, while helping Argonne tap into the university’s talent pool.

“With more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Wang brings critical tools and expertise to the UH Energy Transition Institute, which is dedicated to unlocking the transformative potential within three critical domains: hydrogen, carbon management, and circular plastics,” says Joe Powell, founding executive director of the Energy Transition Institute. “These areas not only present opportunities for reshaping the energy sector but also stand as pillars for societal sustainable development and decarbonization.”

Clean energy founder shares key takeaways from CERAWeek 2024

guest column

Earlier this month, thousands converged on Houston for one of the world’s largest energy conferences – CERAWeek 2024. For five days global leaders, CEOs, oil and gas experts, and the industry’s top stakeholders gathered to provide insight, and discuss solutions, to some of the biggest questions on the future of energy.

Just this week, on the heels of the conference, it was hugely encouraging to see the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announce up to $6 billion for 33 projects across more than 20 states to decarbonize energy-intensive industries and reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement underscored the vitally important, and yet largely untapped role that industrial carbon capture must play in reaching the U.S.’s overall decarbonization goals. This must include significant point-source technology onsite at hard-to-abate industrial emitters like cement, metals and chemicals. The DOE announcement makes that priority clear, with the focus of the two largest grants for cement decarbonization projects going to carbon capture, each up to $500 million.

This was one of the major takeaways at this year’s CERAWeek: despite the success of the IRA, if we are to achieve the rapid scaling required to tackle emissions coming from hard-to-abate sectors, and now is the time to move rapidly into deployment, beginning with carbon capture demonstrations at industrial sites. Through our work with Chevron on the development of a carbon capture pilot for our CycloneCC technology on a gas turbine in San Joaquin Valley, California, we are proud to be doing exactly that.

While Carbon Clean has been active in the U.S. for several years, we chose to unveil our new Houston headquarters during last year’s CERAWeek, selecting the energy capital of the world for our U.S. home. With this increased focus on industrial decarbonization, the opportunities for carbon capture deployment in the U.S. – and more specifically Greater Houston – have significantly expanded. Since first opening the U.S. headquarters in Houston last year, we have grown our headcount by two-thirds and seen U.S. inquiries for our modular, point-source carbon capture solutions skyrocket by a further 59% (and this is after the initial leap in interest following the IRA’s passage).

Still, while a lot has been accomplished over the past year, we recognize that a lot more needs to be done to meet the country’s net zero targets, particularly in the space of industrial decarbonization. This was another takeaway at this year’s CERAWeek, a recognition that many industrial leaders have adopted ambitious net-zero goals but have no plans for implementation.

In conversations with many of this year’s conference attendees, one thing became abundantly clear: yes, the IRA was a breakthrough moment that provided key incentives for companies to enter the carbon capture space and develop the kinds of decarbonization technology that will reduce emissions. However, that only gets us half of the way there: we need to foster a market for the demand of clean industrial production, using the IRA as the vehicle to create that supply. Through the allocation of credits and increased pricing power, we can generate more demand from industrial emitters to embrace the kinds of technology that will enable them to reach net-zero.

Another critical next step: when it comes to adopting local industrial carbon capture projects, accelerate permitting by letting the states decide for themselves. The EPA’s recent decision to grant Louisiana the power to approve carbon capture projects could open the door to a wave of new project applications and additional states seeking the same authority.

If you want an example of a local economy poised to greatly benefit from expanded access to industrial carbon capture, look no further than Houston. With its energy expertise and local resources, Greater Houston is uniquely positioned to take full advantage of carbon capture’s promise, which will not only reduce the region’s emissions but grow jobs.

A recent study by the EFI Foundation, supported by Carbon Clean, identified Houston as an ideal location for a new coordinated regional approach to industrial carbon capture hubs. Previously, most studies on deployment focused on decarbonizing large emitters - the EFI report is focused on small-to-midsize emitters, as they account for 25 percent of America’s industrial emissions but are often overlooked given the cost and space barriers that have historically been barriers to the mass adoption of industrial carbon capture units.

Today, there are 311 facilities in the Houston cluster that fit the bill, representing 36.6 million metric tons of capturable CO2 emissions per year. Given that the region employs nearly a third of the nation’s jobs in oil and gas extraction alone, allowing multiple local emitters access to shared CO2 transport and storage would create a scalable solution at a lower cost. The business community should embrace the findings of this report, unlocking a key tool in combating local emissions, while also sustaining Houston’s workforce.

This year’s CERAWeek occurred during an inflexion point in the U.S.’s conversation around decarbonization. While a lot of progress is underway, it is imperative that energy leaders and the business community fully leverage industrial carbon capture technology if they are serious about reducing emissions at the source. Failure to do so recalls the aphorism by Benjamin Franklin: "Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

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Aniruddha Sharma is the co-founder and CEO of Carbon Clean.