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

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

Here's what resilience and sustainability wins Houston has had the past three years. Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability

City of Houston issues report highlighting progress of climate, sustainability plans

checking in

Houston is making strides in its commitment to combat climate change and build a more resilient future for its residents, according to a recent report.

Three years after Resilient Houston and the Climate Action Plan launched in 2020, the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, in collaboration with other departments, has issued a report on the progress of both plans.

"The creation of the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Sustainability (MORS) as a combined office in October 2021 is a visionary and bold step that brings a holistic perspective to the practice of resilience and sustainability in Houston," Priya Zachariah, chief resilience and sustainability officer, writes in the report.

"When Houston talks about resilience – it means building capacity in our most vulnerable communities to respond, grow, and thrive in the face of climate shocks and stressors," she continues. "When Houston talks about sustainability – it means reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it also means energy affordability, energy reliability, and energy access for everyday Houstonians."

The report identified some of the biggest wins within the city's plans, including highlighting that 172 out of 201 Resilient Houston sub-actions and 69 out of 96 Climate Action Plan actions have been completed or are in progress. The combined efforts have led to a series of accomplishments over the past year that are driving Houston toward becoming a more sustainable, equitable, and climate-resilient city.

“Earth Day HTX 2023 marked three years of laser-focused cooperation between all city departments and our dedicated community partners to push forth initiatives for a cleaner, greener Houston and I’m proud to say that we are exceeding expectations mapped out in these two plans,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a statement. “We track 30 measurable goals and are transparent with where we are on each one of them. We are on track to meet or exceed almost every goal and even though this is my last year in office, the wheels are in motion for future administrations to continue building on this success.”

One of the highlights from the report is the city's reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2020 showed a notable 10 percent reduction from the baseline established in 2014.

The city's dedication to sustainability and transparency has also been recognized by external organizations. The Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP, awarded Houston an A rating in 2022 for its efforts, including public disclosure of climate-related information, a community-wide emissions inventory, and the implementation of a climate risk and vulnerability assessment.

Furthermore, Houston has achieved the Gold designation as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, for cities by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This recognition highlights the city's commitment to green building practices and environmental responsibility.

In terms of green infrastructure, Houston has continued to prioritize tree planting efforts. Per the report, 214,134 trees were planted in 2022, contributing to a total of over 1.4 million trees since 2019. The goal is to plant 4.6 million trees by 2030, effectively reducing urban heat island effects, improving air and water quality, and providing numerous ecological benefits.

In addition, Houston has taken proactive measures to protect its natural habitats and enhance climate resilience. The City Council approved the Nature Preserve Ordinance in 2022, safeguarding 7,423 acres of natural habitat in city parks. These nature preserves will serve as vital spaces for native wildlife, mitigate flooding, and support carbon sequestration.

Houston's commitment to sustainable transportation is also evident. The city has expanded its bike infrastructure, adding 20 miles of high-comfort bike lanes in 2022. This brings the total bikeway miles to 406 out of a goal of 500 miles, promoting alternative and eco-friendly modes of transportation.

The city's efforts extend to municipal operations as well. Houston adopted a Municipal Building Decarbonization and Benchmarking policy in 2022, setting the stage for a more sustainable approach to building management. Additionally, the Houston Airport System has taken significant steps towards achieving carbon neutrality by engaging in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program.

Houston's commitment to renewable energy has also yielded positive results. The city has witnessed an increase in local solar generation, with annual solar generation reaching 148,030 MWh in 2021. Efforts to promote solar investments, including a group-buying campaign with Solar United Neighbors, have contributed to this upward trend.

The city's commitment to electrification is evident in its municipal fleet. Houston has expanded its electric vehicle fleet, operating 333 hybrid electric vehicles and 88 battery electric vehicles. An additional 107 battery electric vehicles and 41 hybrid electric vehicles are expected to be added within the next year. Charging infrastructure is also expanding, with 57 installed chargers and plans for an additional 144.

Mayor Turner's leadership in climate action has extended beyond the city's borders. The mayor led a delegation to Mexico City to launch the Resilient Cities Network initiative, Women in Resilience, highlighting Houston's role in international climate leadership. The city aksi hosted Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and signed a letter of intent with the city of Rotterdam to collaborate on community and energy resilience.

The full report tracking the initiatives' progress is available online.

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This article was generated in part by artificial intelligence.

Companies like ExxonMobil, NRG, and Shell play an important role in helping the world transition to renewable energy sources. Photo via htxenergytransition.org

3 Houston companies leading the way towards a low-carbon future

the view from heti

As the world population makes a jump towards more than 9 billion people by 2050, the race to net-zero is more important than ever. An increase in population means an increase in the demand for energy. With everything from greenhouse gases, pollution, carbon and nitrogen deposition putting a strain on planet Earth, community and business leaders are making commitments to advance the energy transition.

Companies like ExxonMobil, NRG, and Shell play an important role in helping the world transition to renewable energy sources. Here are three ways that these energy companies are working towards an energy abundant, low-carbon future.

NRG Energy

Headquarted in Houston, NRG Energy is the leading integrated power company in the U.S. In 2022, NRG introduced a new Sustainability and Resiliency Impact Study as part of Harris County’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The initiative includes $34 million in park upgrades and is expected to save $54 million.

That same year, Evolve Houston, a nonprofit working to accelerate electric vehicle adoption within the Greater Houston area, launched an e-mobility microgrant initiative funded by Evolve Corporate Catalysts, General Motors and bp. With five founding members, among them being NRG Energy and Shell, the goal of the initiative is to improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Greater Houston area.

At the top of 2023, Reliant Energy and NRG launched the Simple Solar Sell Back electricity plan for Texans aimed at providing solar panels to local homes for lower electricity bills.

Shell

On a mission to improve their own operations, Shell is addressing energy efficiency over time and capturing or offsetting unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Headquartered in London. Shell is on a mission to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050. In 2022, the British multinational company invested $6 million to create the Prairie View A&M Shell Nature-Based Solutions Research Program, funded through the company’s Projects & Technology organization dedicated to funding research to develop new technology solutions.

In March of 2022, Shell gifted the University of Houston $10 million to bolster the institution’s efforts to establish the Energy Transition Institute which focuses on the production and use of reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all. The company also launched the residential power brand Shell Energy offering 100% renewable electricity plans.

ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil is one of the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas companies. In 2021, the multinational oil and gas corporation pledged to invest more than $15 million in solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions initiatives across six years. As a part of their approach to improve air quality, ExxonMobil is working to:

  • Understand the composition and extent of our emissions
  • Meet or exceed environmental regulations
  • Reduce air emissions to minimize potential impacts on local communities
  • Monitor the science and health standards related to air quality

Throughout the years, plastics have become an essential component of products, packaging, construction, transportation, electronics and more. While plastics are durable, lightweight and cheap, they also emit 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Late last year, the major corporation announced the successful startup of one of the largest advanced recycling facilities in North America. Located in Baytown, Texas, the recycling facility uses proprietary technology to break down raw materials for new products and is expected to have nearly 1 billion pounds of annual advanced recycling capacity by the end of 2026.

According to their 2023 Advancing Climate Action Progress Report released early this year, the corporation plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 2030.

From resolving power grid issues to developing renewable energy technologies, Houston energy companies are powering today to empower the future.

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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.

Houston now has 333 hybrid electric vehicles and 88 battery electric vehicles. Photo via houstontx.gov

City of Houston’s EV fleet and charging capabilities are set to expand

new wheels

The City of Houston is getting closer to its goal of all non-emergency, light-duty municipal vehicles to be electric by 2030.

According to late-June status report from the city, Houston now has 333 hybrid electric vehicles and 88 battery electric vehicles. An additional 67 battery electric pickups, 20 hybrid electric pickups, and 21 hybrid electric SUVs deliveries are expected to be up and running before the end of the calendar year, and expects to receive 27 battery-electric SUVs and 13 battery-electric pickups in the next 12 months.

"With almost half of carbon emissions in Houston coming from the transportation sector and a majority of those emissions coming from single occupancy vehicles, electrification is an important part of our climate action plan," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in the statement. "I am pleased to see the ongoing progress and am confident we will meet our goals."

According to Evolve Houston — a public-private partnership founded with CenterPoint, NRG, Shell, and the University of Houston to promote EV sales — about 9 percent of new cars in Houston were registered as EVs last year. This means that Houston's EV adoption rate was 2.5 percent over the US average, according to the statement.

As part of the Houston Climate Action Plan, the city is also working with Evolve Houston to build upon the Bayou City's EV charging infrastructure as well.

Houston currently has 57 installed chargers, two of which are DC fast chargers, according to the status report. The city recently signed a contract to purchase 144 level 2 battery chargers from Siemens and another 15 chargers are slated to be installed at the Houston Health Department's Stadium Drive location in the coming weeks.

Due to supply chain issues, the City's Fleet Management Department is also considering rolling out a mobile charging option and home-charging vehicles for emergency response employees to help reduce costs while still moving toward the city's goals.

Evolve Houston, founded in 2019 through Houston's Climate Action Plan, relaunched about a year ago with a new Equity Program to address poor air quality and limited access to public transportation in vulnerable communities.

It's one of many efforts related to Houston's goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 and leading the global energy transition. In March the city partnered with The Hertz Corp. to triple Houston's EV rental fleet, as well add to the city's charging infrastructure and EV education and training opportunities. In recent years the city has launched a solar co-op, opened new labs and is slated to introduce a new fleet of 20 battery-powered electric buses in the near future.
“HETI’s objective is to create a vision and a blueprint for growing the region’s economy, exporting low-carbon products and expertise, equitably creating new jobs, and helping the city of Houston achieve the goals of its Climate Action Plan.” Image via htxenergytransition.org

Introducing the Houston Energy Transition Initiative

The View from HETI

For over 100 years, Houston has long been considered the energy capital of the world. With newer, cleaner energy initiatives on the rise, Houston is poised to continue with the title.

The economic vitality and growth of our region’s economy is inextricably tied to the energy industry, and the industry is changing rapidly to meet growing global energy demand while simultaneously lowering emissions. The Greater Houston Partnership’s Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI) builds on the best of traditional energy skills and systems to leverage Houston’s industry leadership to accelerate global solutions for an energy-abundant, low-carbon future.

“HETI’s objective is to create a vision and a blueprint for growing the region’s economy, exporting low-carbon products and expertise, equitably creating new jobs, and helping the city of Houston achieve the goals of its Climate Action Plan,” said Jane Stricker, Senior Vice President Energy Transition and Executive Director of HETI. “There is no geography in the world better positioned than Houston to lead the transition to and integration of abundant, low-carbon energy solutions.”

HETI harnesses Houston's industry leadership as well as capitalizes on traditional energy expertise and infrastructure to facilitate worldwide solutions for an energy abundant, low-carbon future. Over the last two years, HETI’s developed a strategic plan and fully launched this strategy to help companies meet the dual challenge.

"Houston has both the opportunity and a responsibility to lead the transition. It is our opportunity to embrace, and our challenge to solve. And when we are successful, we will be creating opportunity for the generations of Houstonians to come," said Bobby Tudor, Chair, Houston Energy Transition Initiative

HETI has formed working groups dedicated to driving progress in key sectors where Houston holds a strategic edge. These active sector-specific working groups are: CCUS, Capital Formation, Power Management, Clean Hydrogen, and Industry Decarbonization. All these groups are working closely with HETI members to accelerate solutions to help take on the dual challenge of meeting the world's increasing energy needs, while also reducing CO2 emissions.

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The Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or 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.

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Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

mixed reviews

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.

New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

coming soon

Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

“RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

“We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”