Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock was named as board chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Photo via LinkedIn

Houston Mayor John Whitmire named the new board chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

An executive at Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock was appointed to lead Houston METRO. The move, pending City Council and board approval, would make her the first Hispanic woman to chair the state's largest transit authority.

"I am grateful to Mayor Whitmire for the honor and opportunity to lead METRO as Board Chair and to be entrusted with this important responsibility, said Brock in a news release. “By appointing the first Hispanic woman in this role, the mayor confirms his commitment to identifying experienced, qualified, and diverse individuals to serve our city and his administration.

"I look forward to working collaboratively with the mayor, the METRO Board, and all levels of government to transform METRO into a best-in-class model of transit, accountability and transparency," she continues. "We will empower a strong management team that will drive measurable results and work directly with customers to understand their real needs to make public transit a safe, clean, and viable option for everyone.”

Brock is vice president of utility infrastructure planning and policy at CenterPoint Energy where she led large customer service, business, and economic development. Brock previously held positions at Reliant Energy, Texas Southern University, and the University of Houston in leadership roles. Brock graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor's degree in political science.

She has been a member of the Board of Houston First Corporation since 2017 and was a founding member and chair of EV nonprofit Evolve Houston.

"Elizabeth is the leader we need for METRO today,” Whitmire said in a news release. “She brings a 'customer first' mindset, which is exactly the thinking our community deserves," Mayor Whitmire said. "Safety and reliability are key for all who depend on or commute alongside public transportation. I am confident that Elizabeth will use her results-driven expertise to drive METRO to deliver a user-friendly and fiscally responsible transit system to all. She understands that my priority is providing mobility options for all Houstonians."

The area has a 1,309-square-mile service area and an annual budget of $ 1.6 billion.

Recently, Whitmire announced Houston Airports Chief Operating Officer Jim Szczesniak replaced longtime Director Mario Diaz. Diaz was head of Houston Airports since 2010 and oversaw the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport and Ellington Airport, a military use airport. Szczesniak served as Houston Airport’ chief operating officer for the past two years. He previously led the multibillion-dollar capital improvement program.

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

Electric vehicles to take center stage at annual Houston event

vroom, vroom

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.

Urban Harvest is now using solar energy to bring its produce around Houston — and other top nonprofit stories on EnergyCapital this year. Photo courtesy of Andrew Hemingway/Urban Harvest

Top 5 nonprofit energy transition news stories in 2023

year in review

Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, EnergyCapital is looking back at the year's top stories in Houston energy transition. While the responsibility of moving the needle on sustainability doesn't always fall to the shoulders of nonprofit organizations, five of the sector's top news stories from this year resonated with readers — be sure to click through to read the full story.

Nonprofit harvests solar energy to serve Houston's food deserts

Sustainable nonprofit Urban Harvest has upgraded to use solar energy. Photo courtesy Andrew Hemingway/Urban Harvest

Houston nonprofit Urban Harvest is plugging into the power of solar energy.

The nonprofit’s Mobile Market program has added a custom-designed, solar-equipped trailer to its fleet. The market provides fresh locally sourced food to “food deserts.”

“By harnessing the sun’s energy, the trailer can become a self-sustaining unit, eliminating reliance on conventional power sources for a substantial period of time,” says Urban Harvest.

The trailer consists of a Ford F150 hybrid truck with a custom-designed trailer that’s equipped with solar power capabilities. The unit enables Urban Harvest to store and transport nearly $5,000 worth of fresh produce and goods to support the Mobile Market program, which serves an average of 1,200 customers each month. Click here to continue reading article from September.

Green jobs accelerator to launch to Houston, other cities with corporate and nonprofit partnership

The Goodwill Clean Tech Accelerator is a partnership between Goodwill and Accenture that will equip participants with employability and technical skills for entry-level jobs across the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

A major nonprofit and a worldwide corporate leader have teamed up to advance clean tech jobs.

The Goodwill Clean Tech Accelerator is a partnership between Goodwill and Accenture that will equip participants with employability and technical skills for entry-level jobs across solar and storage, electric vehicles, heat pumps, and energy efficiency, according to a news release from the organizations.

The program launch next year in Houston, as well as in Atlanta, Nashville, and Detroit, as the two organizations announced in at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Forward event. According to Accenture and Goodwill, the plan is to grow the program to 20 cities in the next seven years and train an estimated 7,000 job seekers. Click here to continue reading article from October.

Houston-based Baker Hughes pledges $175,000 to nonprofits with diversity-focused initiatives

Baker Hughes has made two grants to nonprofits looking to support a diverse workforce. Photo via bakerhughes.com

The nonprofit arm of a Houston-based energy company has made two grants into organizations focused on supplier diversity.

Earlier this week, the Baker Hughes Foundation revealed details on a $75,000 grant to Houston Minority Supplier Development Council, or HMSDC, and a $100,000 grant to Washington, D.C.-based WEConnect International. HMSDC supports economic growth of minority-owned businesses, and WEConnect International is focused on women-owned companies.

“At Baker Hughes, supplier diversity is integral to our success, and it is our duty to support organizations that fuel building a more inclusive supply base and take the steps necessary to ensure business practices mirror our diverse landscape,” Lynn Buckley, Supplier Diversity and Business Development Sourcing leader, says in a news release. Click here to continue reading article from September.

Houston-area teen wins prestigious award for sustainable gardening initiative

A Pearland student's hydroponic gardening nonprofit is increasing sustainability efforts at local schools. Photo via Getty Images

At only 16 years old, Pearland student Rahul Vijayan has been named a winner of a prestigious award.

The 2023 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes recognizes 25 young leaders "who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment," reads the news release. Additionally, 15 of the top winners each receive $10,000 toward their education or service work.

Vijayan created Farm to Tray, a nonprofit that equips schools with hydroponic gardening systems, which can grow fresh produce for school lunch programs. Since he started his initiative, he has distributed over 150 hydroponic grow kits to 23 schools across five districts.

“I want to influence and improve children’s day-to-day lives,” says Rahul. “Farm to Tray is allowing me to do that and make a tangible impact for thousands of students.” Click here to continue reading article from September.


Houston utility provider gifts $100,000 for energy-efficient upgrades in Galveston

Galveston residents spend 14 percent more a month on electricity, and CenterPoint stepped in to help shrink that gap. Photo courtesy of Vision Galveston

As Texas bakes in scorching summertime heat, a new program has been rolled out in Galveston to provide free energy-efficiency upgrades of homes.

The program, a collaboration between the nonprofit Vision Galveston and Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, is designed to reduce energy consumption and cut utility bills through projects like HVAC tune-ups, as well as installation of ceiling insulation, LED light bulbs, solar screens, and low-flow showerheads.

The program launched July 13 with three CenterPoint customers, all residents of Galveston’s Old Central Carver Park neighborhood, receiving energy-efficiency upgrades. Click here to continue reading article from July.

CenterPoint Energy and the Gulf Coast Community Services Association are now accepting applications for the new program. Photo via centerpointenergy.com

CenterPoint Energy, Mayor Turner join forces for $1M energy assistance for Houston residents

giving support

In the season of giving, a Houston energy company has played Santa Claus with a special deliver for underserved Houstonians.

CenterPoint Energy announced a $1 million contribution in Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s name towards energy bill assistance that assists low-income residents. The donation will go to a local nonprofit organization Gulf Coast Community Services Association, or GCCSA, which will manage and distribute the funds.

“Given Mayor Turner’s selfless commitment and outstanding service to our city for the past eight years, this felt like a fitting way to celebrate him and build upon his legacy of helping others across our communities,” CenterPoint Energy CEO Dave Lesar says in a news release. “Throughout his entire career in elected office, Mayor Turner always recognized the importance of supporting underserved neighborhoods and neighbors, and this contribution in his name will make a positive lasting impact.”

Today, December 4, GCCSA will begin accepting applications for energy assistance for low-income residents or families living in CenterPoint Energy’s service areas. Applicants can apply online.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve our great city for my eight years in office, “Turner says in a news release. “It also has been a privilege to collaborate with corporate leaders like CenterPoint Energy and impactful nonprofits like GCCSA to help the community members who need it most.

“I am deeply grateful for the countless partnerships and initiatives benefiting Houston during my incredible journey as mayor. Together, we were able to do great things.”

Earlier this summer, CenterPoint also donated $100,000 to Galveston residents by way of nonprofit Vision Galveston. The program was designed to reduce energy consumption and cut utility bills through projects like HVAC tune-ups, as well as installation of ceiling insulation, LED light bulbs, solar screens, and low-flow showerheads.

Galveston residents spend 14 percent more a month on electricity, and CenterPoint stepped in to help shrink that gap. Photo courtesy of Vision Galveston

Houston utility provider gifts $100,000 for energy-efficient upgrades in Galveston

island improvements

As Texas bakes in scorching summertime heat, a new program has been rolled out in Galveston to provide free energy-efficiency upgrades of homes.

The program, a collaboration between the nonprofit Vision Galveston and Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, is designed to reduce energy consumption and cut utility bills through projects like HVAC tune-ups, as well as installation of ceiling insulation, LED light bulbs, solar screens, and low-flow showerheads.

The program launched July 13 with three CenterPoint customers, all residents of Galveston’s Old Central Carver Park neighborhood, receiving energy-efficiency upgrades.

All residents of Galveston are eligible for the program but must meet certain requirements, such as having:

  • A valid ESID number, or electric service identifier, in CenterPoint’s Houston-area territory.
  • A central AC system or heat pump that’s at least a year old and is in good working order.
  • A residential AC system that’s no larger than five tons.

Data from EnergySage shows the average Galveston resident spends $195 a month on electricity. That’s 14 percent higher than the national average.

“Without properly equipped homes to withstand Texas’ above-average temperatures and other extreme weather conditions, [these costs] could increase over time, greatly impacting islanders during the hot summer months,” the program’s organizers say. “And this could be a significant financial burden for families that are already economically challenged.”

In tandem with the new program, the CenterPoint Energy Foundation has donated $100,000 to Vision Galveston to support future energy-efficiency programs benefiting income-qualified residents of Galveston.

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Houston initiative selected for DOE program developing hubs for clean energy innovation

community focus

Houston has been selected as one of the hubs backed by a new program from the United States Department of Energy that's developing communities for clean energy innovation.

The DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the the first phase of winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters, or EPIC, Round 3. The local initiative is one of 23 incubators and accelerators that was awarded $150,000 to support programming for energy startups and entrepreneurs.

The Houston-based participant is called "Texas Innovates: Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator," or CHILI, and it's a program meant to feed startups into the DOE recognized HyVelocity program and other regional decarbonization efforts.

EPIC was launched to drive innovation at a local level and to inspire commercial success of energy startups. It's the third year of the competition that wraps up with a winning participant negotiating a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million.

“Incubators and Accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support," DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan says in a news release. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources, and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”

CHILI, the only participant in Texas, now moves on to the second phase of the competition, where they will design a project continuation plan and programming for the next seven months to be submitted in September.

where they’ll implement their programming and design a project continuation plan over the next 7 months. In September they will submit their plans with the hope of being selected to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each.

Phase 2 also includes two national pitch competitions with a total of $165,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for startups. The first EPIC pitch event for 2024 will be in June at the 2024 Small Business Forum & Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last fall, the DOE selected the Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hub was announced to receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will get.


The DOE's OTT selections are nationwide. Photo via energy.gov

Law firm's Houston office expands energy expertise

new hire

Leading adviser to energy companies, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has announced a new energy transactions partner in the firm’s Houston office.

Ian Goldberg will advise clients on various energy transactions, which will include project development, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and financial transactions that will involve oil and gas assets, energy transition investments and rare earth mineral deposits.

He previously led the energy transactions practice at Hunton Andrews Kurth.

“Akin has a top-tier integrated platform across the entire energy value chain,” Goldberg says in a news release.” I’m excited to be joining a growing and dynamic team.”

He will be joining recent additions to Akin’s energy practice that include projects & energy transition partners Ike Emehelu (New York), Alex Harrison, Matt Hardwick and Dan Giemajner (London), energy regulatory partners Emily Mallen and Stephen Hug (Washington, D.C.), tax equity partner Sam Guthrie (Washington, D.C.) and projects & energy transition partner Vanessa Richelle Wilson (Washington, D.C.)..

“Ian adds depth to our energy team with extensive experience in the onshore and offshore upstream and midstream sectors, and his current representation of clients in the carbon capture, utilization & storage and hydrogen spaces further strengthens our growing projects & energy transition practice,” corporate practice co-head Zachary Wittenberg adds in the release.