A Houston energy professional shares his advice for those looking for a job in climate tech. Photo via Getty Images

If hard times build strong people, then extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems. Nobody knows this conventional wisdom better than Houston.

The past six years alone have seen the second costliest natural disaster in United States history (Hurricane Harvey), the longest power outage in Texas history (Winter Storm Uri), and this June, a heat wave that pushed the ERCOT power grid to record levels.

Combine our ever more volatile climate with a post-COVID-19 reckoning of what it means to work for what you believe in, and you get a recipe for the most significant workforce shift the world has ever seen. This workforce shift rules in favor of climate tech, and it will largely target those who’ve grown up, come of age and started their careers in the midst of this increasing volatility. Climate tech will no longer be considered a standalone industry; it will be baked into all existing industries, and those that don’t accept it will die.

I’m proud to be a climate optimist, but I’m also a realist. The truth is no matter what we do, our volatile climate is going to get worse before it gets better. But if extreme weather events build strong climate tech ecosystems, I can live with that.

To students and young professionals considering a jump into climate tech: There is no better place to be right now. Here are five things to keep in mind as you make that jump.

1. Meet as many people from diverse backgrounds working on as many different things as you can. You will likely feel awkward at first, especially if you don’t naturally gravitate toward conferences and happy hours. At the risk of sounding trite, just treat every stranger like a friend you haven’t met yet. Some of us could probably use more friends anyway.

2. The advice in the self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, originally published in 1936, is timeless. Possibly the most useful (and most obvious) point is this: Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Whenever possible, repeat your new friends’ names when you meet them. Especially if you’re seeking a business development, sales or other external-facing role, perfecting this point should be your Holy Grail.

3. Depending on how new you are to energy and climate tech, you’ll hear lots of unfamiliar lingo. Ask questions, take note of what you still don’t get, and do your best to fill in the gaps on the side. Eventually, acronyms will become your best friend. For example: Have you seen what the ITC and the PTC from the IRA will do to the LCOE of PV according to NREL? IYKYK.

4. Coachability is key. You may feel like you’re getting rejected 99 percent of the time, but the way you respond to and learn from those experiences will ensure the other one percent makes all the difference. At the end of the day, climate tech is so vast that it’s impossible to become an expert in everything, and that’s okay. We may not know what’s going on 70 percent of the time, but I’ll take a .300 batting average any day.

5. It may be impossible to become an expert in everything, but you should proactively learn as much as you can, especially given how quickly the ecosystem is expanding. If you’re not embarrassed by how little you knewone year ago, two years ago or even five years ago, then you’re probably not trying hard enough.

These are only five of my takeaways over the past few years and I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go in implementing them. In a way, that’s what makes this journey what it is. I just can’t wait to see what we build.

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Ryan Davidson is business development lead for CalWave Power Technologies, a California-based company and Greentown Houston member that's focused on converting ocean waves’ hydrokinetic energy into reliable electricity.

Kanin Energy set up shop in Greentown Labs last year to grow its impact on the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

This energy transition startup taps Houston to grow, build its waste-heat-to-power tech

eyes on hou

Waste heat is everywhere, but in Houston, the Energy Capital of the World, it is becoming a hot commodity. What is it? Janice Tran, CEO of Kanin Energy, uses the example of turning ore into steel.

“There’s a lot of heat involved in that chemical process,” she says. “It’s a waste of energy.”

But Kanin Energy can do something about that. Its waste-heat-to-power, or WHP, concept uses a technology called organic rankine cycle. Tran explains that heat drives a turbine that generates electricity.

“It’s a very similar concept to a steam engine,” she says. Tran adds that the best term for what Kanin Energy does is “waste heat recovery.”

Emission-free power should be its own virtuous goal, but for companies creating waste heat, it can be an expensive endeavor both in terms of capital and human resources to work on energy transition solutions. But Kanin Energy helps companies to decarbonize with no cost to them.

“We can pay for the projects, then we pay the customers for that heat. We turn a waste product into a revenue stream for our customer,” Tran explains. Kanin Energy then sells the clean power back to the facility or to the grid, hence decarbonizing the facility gratis. Financing, construction, and operations are all part of the package.

Kanin Energy began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020.

“We started like a lotus. A lotus grows in mud — you start in the worst conditions and everything is better and easier from there,” says Tran.

That tough birth has helped provide the team with a discipline and thoughtfulness that’s been key to the company’s culture. Remote work has forced the team to get procedures clearly in place and react efficiently.

Back in May of 2020, its inception took place in Calgary. But the team, which also includes CDO Dan Fipke and CTO Jake Bainbridge, began to notice that many of their customers were either based in Houston or had Houston ties.

A year ago, the Kanin team visited Houston to see if the city could be a fit for an office. In July of 2022, Tran opened Kanin Energy offices in Greentown Labs.

“We’re hiring and building our team office out of Greentown. It’s been really great for us,” she says.

With the company now in its commercialization stage, Tran says that becoming part of the Houston energy ecosystem has been invaluable for Kanin.

The investments being made in climate tech and in energy transition make Space City the right place for the company. For Canadian-born Kanin Energy, Houston is now home. Investors across the nation, including Texas, are now helping Kanin to blossom, much like the lotus.

Janice Tran is the CEO and co-founder of Kanin Energy. Photo via LinkedIn

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Shell fuels energy transition with roll out of EV charging stations

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As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

“We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report.

Shell’s global network of service stations is shrinking, though. In the report, the company reveals plans to close a total of 1,000 gas stations in 2024 and 2025. Today, more than 45,000 Shell-branded gas stations are located in over 90 countries.

Aside from Shell gas stations, the company’s Shell Recharge business unit operates public EV charging stations along streets, at grocery stores, and at other locations in 33 countries.

Shell, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, is ramping up its EV charging network amid forecasts of slowing demand for oil and rising demand for EVs. Other than EV charging, Shell is focusing on biofuels and integrated power as components of its revamped product mix.

“Shell is well positioned to become a profitable leader in public charging for electric vehicles, meeting the growing demand from drivers who need to charge on the go,” the report says.

To accelerate its EV charging presence in the U.S., Shell in 2023 purchased Volta, a San Francisco-based operator of EV charging stations. Shell says it now operates one of the largest public EV charging networks in the U.S., with more than 3,000 charging points in 31 states and another 3,400 under development.

“The availability of charging points will be critical for the growth in electric vehicles,” the report says.

Last month, Shell divested from a solar energy subsidiary, before later announcing an exit from a wind energy joint venture.

"In-line with our Powering Progress strategy, Shell continues to hone our portfolio of renewable generation projects in key markets where we have an advantaged position," Glenn Wright, senior vice president at Shell Energy Americas, said in a news release at the time.

Rice names new leader for prestigious nanotechnology, materials science institute

take the lead

A distinguished Rice University professor has assumed the reins of a unique institute that focuses on research within nanoscience, quantum science, and materials science.

Junichiro Kono has assumed leadership of the Smalley-Curl Institute, which houses some of the world’s most accomplished researchers across fields including advanced materials, quantum magnetism, plasmonics and photonics, biophysics and bioengineering, all aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology, and more.

“With his great track record in fostering international research talent — with student exchange programs between the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and France that have introduced hundreds of students to new cultures and ways of researching science and engineering — Jun brings a wealth of experience in building cultural and technological ties across the globe,” Ramamoorthy Ramesh, executive vice president for research, says in a news release.

Kono is the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor in Engineering, chair of the Applied Physics Graduate Program and professor of electrical and computer engineering, physics and astronomy and materials science and nanoengineering, and is considered a global leader in studies of nanomaterials and light-matter interactions. He currently leads Rice’s top 10-ranked Applied Physics Graduate Program.

Under his leadership, the program is expected to double in size over. By 2029. The Smalley-Curl Institute will also add additional postdoctoral research fellowships to the current three endowed positions.

The Smalley-Curl Institute is named for Nobel Laureates Richard Smalley and Robert Curl (‘54). Earlier in his career, Kono once worked with Smalley on the physical properties of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), which led to the experimental discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect on the band structure of SWCNTs in high magnetic fields.

“I am deeply honored and excited to lead the Smalley-Curl Institute,” Kono says in a news release. “The opportunity to build upon the incredible legacy of Richard Smalley and Robert Curl is both a privilege and a challenge, which I embrace wholeheartedly. I’m really looking forward to working with the talented researchers and students at Rice University to further advance our understanding and application of nanomaterials and quantum phenomena. Together, we can accomplish great things.”

Kono succeeds Rice professor Naomi Halas as director of the institute. Halas is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the founding director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics.

Houston energy company diverts over 125M pounds of scrap metals from landfills

reduce, reuse, recycle

For three years, Baker Hughes has been working with a full-scale scrap processor partner to divert scrap metal waste from landfills as a part of the company's net-zero commitment by 2050.

In partnership with Venture Metals +, Baker Hughes has saved over 125 million pounds of scrap metals from more than 50 of the company's locations around the world.

Venture Metals + collects, recycles, and manages the full recycling process of scrap materials, providing recycling, reclamation, and investment recovery as a service to industrial, manufacturing, and service facilities.

“The relationship that has been formed between Baker Hughes and Venture Metals is the definition of a true partnership. Over the many years we have collaborated on significant projects and there has been a foundation of trust, transparency and investment on both sides,” Venture Metals’ Vice-Chairman of the Board Mark Chazanow says in a news release. “Together, we have been able to do our part to improve the environment by circular and sustainable recycling while also capturing substantial revenue gain. We look forward to growing the partnership and seeing a bright future ahead together.”

According to the release, Baker Hughes plans to grow the partnership to introduce similar programs at five key locations around the world. Venture Metals+ also set up Baker Hughes with customized containers to help separate titanium, stainless steel, Inconel, and other recyclable metals.

“Reducing our environmental footprint is a critical focus area for our sustainability strategy as we continue to reduce waste, minimize the resources we use and promote circularity,” Allyson Anderson Book, chief sustainability officer at Baker Hughes, adds. “Through partners like Venture Metals +, we are minimizing waste and reusing scrap materials as much as possible for more sustainable operations.”