Looking to start composting? This is your month to try it out with free drop-off spots in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

The City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department is launching a free Food Waste Drop-Off pilot program through the end of February.

The program is in collaboration with Council Member Sallie Alcorn, Zero Waste Houston and the City of Houston Health Department, and allows residents to drop off food scraps at four different locations. The locations are:

  • Kashmere Multi-Service Center, Mondays from 2 to 5 pm
  • Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, Tuesdays from 2 to 5 pm
  • Alief Neighborhood Center, Wednesdays from 4 to 7 pm
  • Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, Thursdays from 3 to 6 pm

Houston residents, businesses, and institutions generate 6.2 million tons of municipal solid waste per year according to the Solid Waste Department program.

“You’ll find when you start composting your food scraps, there is a lot less trash generated in your home, at your curb, and taken to the landfill,” Alcorn says in a news release.

The Solid Waste Management Department provides solid waste services with the collection, disposal, and recycling of discarded material in an environmentally-friendly and cost effective way.

“The Solid Waste Department is eager to continue to provide innovative programs that divert waste from the landfill and actively engage Houston residents,” says Mark Wilfalk, Director of Solid Waste Management in the release.

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.

Now that it's less merry and bright, do the right thing and recycle your tree with the city of Houston. Photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

City of Houston provides 24 recycle stations for Christmas tree drop off

calling all evergreens

The holidays have come and gone, and the city of Houston is asking for you to recycle your Christmas trees.

But what to do with that live tree after the holidays celebrations are over? Tradition dictates that revelers can leave their yuletide tree up though January 6, 2023. But afterwards, dumping it with the front-yard trash is unceremonious and disrespectful. Better to recycle holiday tree — especially at one of the city's tree recycling centers that are now open.

The city of Houston's Solid Waste Management Department has opened 24 residential tree drop-off recycling locations throughout the area. Locals can take their live trees to one of these centers across the city, where they will be repurposed for mulch or other landscape materials.

This tree recycling program is part of the city of Houston for the 33rd annual tree mulching event.

Before depositing the tree or trees, be sure to remove all lights, wire, tinsel, ornaments, nails, stands, and other non-organic decorative materials. Importantly, artificial, flocked, or painted trees will not be accepted. Residents have until January 26, 2024 to donate holiday trees.

Below is a list of Christmas tree recycling locations, per ABC13 and the city of Houston.

Open daily 9 am to 6 pm

  • Memorial Park at the Softball Parking Lot: 6402 Arnot St.
  • T.C. Jester Park: 4200 T.C. Jester West
  • Ellington Airport Recycling: Hwy 3 & Brantley Road
  • Kingwood (Branch Library): Bens View Lane at Bens Branch Drive
  • Doss Park (gates close at 5 pm): 2500 Frick Rd.

Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm

  • Central Neighborhood Depository: 2240 Central St.
  • Kirkpatrick Neighborhood Depository: 5565 Kirkpatrick
  • Sommermeyer Neighborhood Depository: 14400 Sommermeyer
  • N. Main Neighborhood Depository: 9003 North Main
  • Southwest Neighborhood Depository: 10785 Southwest Freeway
  • Sunbeam Neighborhood Depository: 5100 Sunbeam

Open Monday - Saturday, 8 am to 5 pm; closed Monday, Jan. 15, 2024

  • Westpark Consumer Recycling Center: 5900 Westpark

Open Monday to Friday 7 am to 5 pm and Saturday 7 am to noon; closed Monday, January 1, 2024

  • Living Earth: 5802 Crawford Rd.
  • Living Earth: 1503 Industrial Drive, Missouri City
  • Living Earth: 1700 E Highway 90Alt, Richmond
  • Living Earth: 12202 Cutten Rd.
  • Living Earth: 16138 Highway 6, Iowa Colony
  • Living Earth: 5210 S. Sam Houston Parkway E.
  • Living Earth: 27733 Katy Freeway, Katy
  • Living Earth: 10310 Beaumont Highway
  • Living Earth: 17555 I-45 South, Conroe
  • Living Earth: 20611 U.S. 59, New Caney
  • Living Earth: 9306 FM 523 Freeport

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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.”

Katie Mehnert reflects on the progress Houston has made within the energy transition and future of work following her experience ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo courtesy of ALLY

Founder on ringing the NYSE bell and shining a spotlight on the future of energy in Houston

guest column

As I stood on the platform at the world’s largest stock exchange to ring the closing bell, surrounded by 130 people from across the energy industry, I saw it clearly: how the private sector will play a major role in getting us to an era of net zero. The people who power the energy industry will do the hard work. We’ve already begun. And we’re unafraid of the long journey ahead — something more than 40 of us exemplified that weekend by running a marathon.

The trip to New York City days ago was an exhilarating whirlwind. But it was also something much more: A chance to show the markets, the nation, and the world that Houston is leading the energy transition. (It didn’t hurt that we popped up on Good Morning America.)

From the beginning, the idea behind this pair of events — ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and running the TCS New York City Marathon — was aimed at sending crucial messages. That recognizing climate change and building solutions is an obligation and an opportunity. That the energy industry understands this. That investors have good reason to support climate tech, one of the most exciting and fastest growing sectors. And, last but not least, that people’s perceptions of Houston as being all about oil and gas are simply wrong.

The dozens of us who gathered came from across the country and around the world, But by far, the largest contingent was from right here in Houston. Executives, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other innovators took part. People spearheading projects in every facet of energy, from wind to solar, carbon capture, and other methods of dramatically reducing carbon emissions. All as one team.

Those who traveled from “the energy capital” knew how important it was to highlight our Houston pride. As a new report from the Texas Climate Tech Collective points out, the biggest problem in the city’s climate tech ecosystem is its image. “Outsider perceptions of Houston often draw on negative stereotypes,” the report explains. “The number one disadvantage survey respondents chose – even more than access to VC capital – was Houston’s anti-climate reputation outside the state.”

It’s a problem I’ve been trying to combat for years, including through op-eds in national and international media outlets. Fortunately, the idea is starting to get through. Just days ago, the Financial Times reported that Houston claimed the top spot in this year’s FT-Nikkei Investing in America rankings by “moving beyond oil.” Our city, the paper said, “has become a hub for green energy innovation by building on its hydrocarbon past.”

Houston, and Texas a whole, should be immensely proud of this. But the energy industry has a long history of failing to tell its own stories. It’s time to change that. In fact, the recommendations in the collective’s report include “campaigning to improve Houston’s reputation, improving promotion of Houston’s energy transition initiatives and accomplishments, educating politicians and consumers, reversing anti-climate perception.”

Photo courtesy of ALLY

Building bridges

All of the challenges we face, including the perception problem, will only be overcome if we work together. So the era of siloes must end. Climate change is an “all hands on deck” situation. This means companies large and small, as well as businesses focusing on all forms of energy, need to develop a “one-team” mentality.

We also need to step up our engagement with public sector entities. A great deal of public sector investment is being poured into renewable energy programs. Since I’ve served as an ambassador to the Department of Energy’s Equity in Energy initiative and a member of the National Petroleum Council, I’ve met many people in government who are eager to cooperate with us to help ensure that the United States leads the way in the energy transition.

The need for building these kinds of bridges is another reason that many of the participants in our Women & Allies in Energy team saw the New York City marathon as such a strong metaphor. It’s known for its bridges. And having run across all of them — and stopped for a quick selfie on the toughest one of all, the Queensboro Bridge — I’m reminded of their importance. I was happy to see that another recommendation in the collective’s report speaks directly to this. It calls for, “Building bridges between public and private, energy corporates and startups, universities and startups, and startups and mentors; seeking partnerships with other ecosystems; improving resources for early stage startups.”

We also need to build bridges among groups of people. More than ever, the industry needs diversity, equity and inclusion. (See my recent piece for Fast Company about why the C-Suite should double down, not shy away from, DEI.) We need to welcome people with all sorts of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. The greatest form of capital the energy sector has in building the future is not financial. It’s human capital. And the greatest natural resource we have is not one form of energy. It’s the people whose hard work, creativity, collaboration, and grit will get us to the finish line.

To help make all this happen, I’m calling for Houston to come together on climate change. Capitalizing on the annual Climate Week in New York City, and building on an event the City of Houston organized in 2021, let’s bring all industries and all people together next fall to show that we recognize climate reality, and are ready to take action together.

The next generation

While I did have the chance to lead the delegation at the NYSE closing bell, I did not hold the gavel — at least, not by myself. Instead, I handed it to my 12-year-old daughter, Ally. (Yes, her name is a big part of the inspiration behind our company name, ALLY Energy.)

As leaders in energy, we have to keep our eyes firmly focused on the next generation. This means not only giving them a strong supply of energy and healthier conditions on the planet. It also means giving them future job opportunities.

It’s up to us to build the pipeline for future talent. We need to improve STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education. And we need to demonstrate to people who are currently underrepresented in our industry — such as women and members of minority groups — that they have a future in the world’s most exciting industry.

We can do this. We can get out of our bubble, show our Houston pride to the world, and lead the way to “energy 2.0” — an era of plentiful energy supplies and net-zero emissions. After all, dozens of us have returned from New York City with a mission: capitalize on all that momentum, join together as a team, and run the race to net zero.

———

Katie Mehnert is founder and CEO of Ally Energy, a Houston-based talent and culture platform for the energy industry and 2023 Houston Innovation Award recipient.

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.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

ExxonMobil revs up EV pilot in Permian Basin

seeing green

ExxonMobil has upgraded its Permian Basin fleet of trucks with sustainability in mind.

The Houston-headquartered company announced a new pilot program last week, rolling out 10 new all-electric pickup trucks at its Cowboy Central Delivery Point in southeast New Mexico. It's the first time the company has used EVs in any of its upstream sites, including the Permian Basin.

“We expect these EV trucks will require less maintenance, which will help reduce cost, while also contributing to our plan to achieve net zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions in our Permian operations by 2030," Kartik Garg, ExxonMobil's New Mexico production manager, says in a news release.

ExxonMobil has already deployed EV trucks at its facilities in Baytown, Beaumont, and Baton Rouge, but the Permian Basin, which accounts for about half of ExxonMobil's total U.S. oil production, is a larger site. The company reports that "a typical vehicle there can log 30,000 miles a year."

The EV rollout comes after the company announced last year that it plans to be a major supplier of lithium for EV battery technology.

At the end of last year, ExxonMobil increased its financial commitment to implementing more sustainable solutions. The company reported that it is pursuing more than $20 billion of lower-emissions opportunities through 2027.

Cowboys and the EVs of the Permian Basin | ExxonMobilyoutu.be

Energy industry veteran named CEO of Houston hydrogen co.

GOOD AS GOLD

Cleantech startup Gold H2, a spinout of Houston-based energy biotech company Cemvita, has named oil and gas industry veteran Prabhdeep Singh Sekhon as its CEO.

Sekhon previously held roles at companies such as NextEra Energy Resources and Hess. Most recently, he was a leader on NextEra’s strategy and business development team.

Gold H2 uses microbes to convert oil and gas in old, uneconomical wells into clean hydrogen. The approach to generating clean hydrogen is part of a multibillion-dollar market.

Gold H2 spun out of Cemvita last year with Moji Karimi, co-founder of Cemvita, leading the transition. Gold H2 spun out after successfully piloting its microbial hydrogen technology, producing hydrogen below 80 cents per kilogram.

The Gold H2 venture had been a business unit within Cemvita.

“I was drawn to Gold H2 because of its innovative mission to support the U.S. economy in this historical energy transition,” Sekhon says in a news release. “Over the last few years, my team [at NextEra] was heavily focused on the commercialization of clean hydrogen. When I came across Gold H2, it was clear that it was superior to each of its counterparts in both cost and [carbon intensity].”

Gold H2 explains that oil and gas companies have wrestled for decades with what to do with exhausted oil fields. With Gold H2’s first-of-its-kind biotechnology, these companies can find productive uses for oil wells by producing clean hydrogen at a low cost, the startup says.

“There is so much opportunity ahead of Gold H2 as the first company to use microbes in the subsurface to create a clean energy source,” Sekhon says. “Driving this dynamic industry change to empower clean hydrogen fuel production will be extremely rewarding.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Q&A: CEO of bp-acquired RNG producer on energy sustainability, stability

the view from heti

bp’s Archaea Energy is the largest renewable natural gas (RNG) producer in the U.S., with an industry leading RNG platform and expertise in developing, constructing and operating RNG facilities to capture waste emissions and convert them into low carbon fuel.

Archaea partners with landfill owners, farmers and other facilities to help them transform their feedstock sources into RNG and convert these facilities into renewable energy centers.

Starlee Sykes, Archaea Energy’s CEO, shared more about bp’s acquisition of the company and their vision for the future.

HETI: bp completed its acquisition of Archaea in December 2022. What is the significance of this acquisition for bp, and how does it bolster Archaea’s mission to create sustainability and stability for future generations?  

Starlee Sykes: The acquisition was an important move to accelerate and grow our plans for bp’s bioenergy transition growth engine, one of five strategic transition growth engines. Archaea will not only play a pivotal role in bp’s transition and ambition to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner but is a key part of bp’s plan to increase biogas supply volumes.

HETI: Tell us more about how renewable natural gas is used and why it’s an important component of the energy transition?  

SS: Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a type of biogas generated by decomposing organic material at landfill sites, anaerobic digesters and other waste facilities – and demand for it is growing. Our facilities convert waste emissions into renewable natural gas. RNG is a lower carbon fuel, which according to the EPA can help reduce emissions, improve local air quality, and provide fuel for homes, businesses and transportation. Our process creates a productive use for methane which would otherwise be burned or vented to the atmosphere. And in doing so, we displace traditional fossil fuels from the energy system.

HETI: Archaea recently brought online a first-of-its-kind RNG plant in Medora, Indiana. Can you tell us more about the launch and why it’s such a significant milestone for the company?  

SS:Archaea’s Medora plant came online in October 2023 – it was the first Archaea RNG plant to come online since bp’s acquisition. At Medora, we deployed the Archaea Modular Design (AMD) which streamlines and accelerates the time it takes to build our plants. Traditionally, RNG plants have been custom-built, but AMD allows plants to be built on skids with interchangeable components for faster builds.

HETI: Now that the Medora plant is online, what does the future hold? What are some of Archaea’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond?  

SS: We plan to bring online around 15 RNG plants in each of 2024 and 2025. Archaea has a development pipeline of more than 80 projects that underpin the potential for around five-fold growth in RNG production by 2030.

We will continue to operate around 50 sites across the US – including RNG plants, digesters and landfill gas-to-electric facilities.

And we are looking to the future. For example, at our Assai plant in Pennsylvania, the largest RNG plant in the US, we are in the planning stages to drill a carbon capture sequestration (CCS) appraisal well to determine if carbon dioxide sequestration could be feasible at this site, really demonstrating our commitment to decarbonization and the optionality in value we have across our portfolio.

HETI: bp has had an office in Washington, DC for many years. Can you tell us more about the role that legislation has to play in the energy transition? 

SS: Policy can play a critical role in advancing the energy transition, providing the necessary support to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We actively advocate for such policies through direct lobbying, formal comments and testimony, communications activities and advertising. We also advocate with regulators to help inform their rulemakings, as with the US Environmental Protection Agency to support the finalization of a well-designed electric Renewable Identification Number (eRIN) program.

HETI: Science and innovation are key drivers of the energy transition. In your view, what are some of most exciting innovations supporting the goal to reach net-zero emissions?  

SS: We don’t just talk about innovation in bp, we do it – and have been for many years. This track record gives us confidence in continuing to transform, change and innovate at pace and scale. The Archaea Modular Design is a great example of the type of innovation that bp supports which enables us to pursue our goal of net-zero emissions.

Beyond Archaea, we have engineers and scientists across bp who are working on innovative solutions with the goal of lowering emissions. We believe that we need to invest in lower carbon energy to meet the world’s climate objectives, but we also need to invest in today’s energy system, which is primarily hydrocarbon focused. It’s an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach, and we need both to be successful.

Learn more about Archaea and the work they are doing in energy transition.

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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative 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.