The project will focus on testing 5G networks for "stability, interoperability, energy efficiency and communication performance." Photo via Getty Images

A team of Rice University engineers has secured a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to develop a new way to test 5G networks.

The project will focus on testing 5G networks for software-centric architectures, according to a statement from Rice. The funds come from the NTIA's most recent round of grants, totaling about $80 million, as part of the $1.5 billion Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund. Other awards went to Virginia Tech, Northeastern University, DISH Wireless, and more.

The project at Rice will be led by Rahman Doost-Mohammady, an assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Ashutosh Sabharwal, the Ernest Dell Butcher Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Santiago Segarra, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and an expert in machine learning for wireless network design, is also a co-principal investigator on this project.

"Current testing methodologies for wireless products have predominantly focused on the communication dimension, evaluating aspects such as load testing and channel emulation,” said Doost-Mohammady said in a statement. “But with the escalating trend toward software-based wireless products, it’s imperative that we take a more holistic approach to testing."

The new framework will be used to "assess the stability, interoperability, energy efficiency and communication performance of software-based machine learning-enabled 5G radio access networks (RANs)," according to Rice, known as ETHOS.

Once created, the team of researchers will use the framework for extensive testing using novel machine learning algorithms for 5G RAN with California-based NVIDIA's Aerial Research Cloud (ARC) platform. The team also plans to partner with other industry contacts in the future, according to Rice.

“The broader impacts of this project are far-reaching, with the potential to revolutionize software-based and machine learning-enabled wireless product testing by making it more comprehensive and responsive to the complexities of real-world network environments,” Sabharwal said in the statement. “By providing the industry with advanced tools to evaluate and ensure the stability, energy efficiency and throughput of their products, our research is poised to contribute to the successful deployment of 5G and beyond wireless networks.”

Late last year, the Houston location of Greentown Labs also landed funds from the Department of Commerce. The climatetech startup incubator was named to of the Economic Development Administration's 10th cohort of its Build to Scale program and will receive $400,000 with a $400,000 local match confirmed.

Houston-based nonprofit accelerator, BioWell, also received funding from the Build to Scale program.


———

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Texas ranked as the 40th most energy efficient state, according to a recent report. Photo via Getty Images

Texas falls short on list of most energy efficient states

big yikes

The Lone Star State again failed to perform well on an annual ranking of the most energy efficient states.

Texas ranked as the 40th most energy efficient state, according to WalletHub's annual report. Only eight continental US states ranked poorer, including Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, and South Carolina, respectively.

Source: WalletHub

The report looked at home and auto energy efficiency, as the report's methodology outlines.

"We obtained the former by calculating the ratio of total residential energy consumption to annual degree days. For the latter, we divided the annual vehicle miles driven by gallons of gasoline consumed to determine vehicle-fuel efficiency and measured annual vehicle miles driven per capita to determine transportation efficiency," reads the study.

Texas scored a 36 out of 50 points for home energy efficiency and 41 points for auto energy efficiency.

The report's experts were asked about federal incentivization of energy efficiency for customers, and all were in agreement that this is key to the future of energy.

"Energy conservation is a big piece that needs to be tackled efficiently for us to make any progress on energy transition. Incentivizing consumers and businesses is necessary but only if there is a clear demonstration of changes in personal and business work/living habits that reduce the energy footprint," says Sanjay Srinivasan, director at EMS Energy Institute and professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Another recent report looked at Texas from the solar perspective, and Houston failed to place in the top 15 most "solar" cities in the United States. However, Austin led the way for Texas, ranking the No. 3 most “solar” city in the U.S., per Thumbtack. Austin, with the highest net-new solar panel installations within the past year in Texas, split up four Californian cities in the top five. Only San Diego (No. 1) and Los Angeles (No. 2) outranked Austin.

While there's room for improvement for efficiency, Texas has among the best prices for energy, as WalletHub found in a report this summer. Texas ranked No. 49 on the list of the 2023 Most Energy-Expensive States.

According to the facts, Houston's energy transition is moving in the right direction. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Houston's energy transition economy sees momentum, including $6.1B in financing in 2022

Houston facts

In Houston, the energy transition movement is in full effect — at least, according to the facts and figures from a recently released report.

The Greater Houston Partnership released its 2023 Houston Facts report, which analyzes the business community across sectors. The report highlights the fact that last year Houston's energy transition brought in $6.1 billion in financing from private market investments, which represents a 61.9 percent increase compared to 2021.

"Over the last five years, Houston has seen constant growth in annual energy transition investments, with a notable surge observed from 2020 onwards," reads the report.

Corporate and strategic merger and acquisition investments are what dominated the five deal types, according to the report, representing 68.8 percent of the total investment in 2022. Additionally, private equity accounted for 19.3 percent of all deals, with venture capital comprising 9.5 percent.

Source: GHP analysis of data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP)

According to Houston Facts, there are 550 Houston-based energy transition companies working in battery/energy storage, biofuels, carbon capture, use, and storage, circular economy, and other energy value chains.

The report also looked at clean energy job growth, which increased from 66,047 professionals in the Houston metro area in 2021 to projected increase to 71,305 jobs in 2022. The fastest growing type of clean energy job is within energy efficiency, a section that accounts for 68.1 percent of total clean energy employment last year, which increased 28.2 percent from 2021. Additionally, clean vehicle employment also saw a 14.7 percent increase while job counts in grid and storage and clean fuel applications declined notably in 2022, per the report.

Compared nationally, personal finance website SmartAsset recently ranked the Houston metro area as the fifth best place in the U.S. for green jobs, which pay an average of 21 percent more than other jobs. The SmartAsset study found that 2.23 percent of workers in the Houston area hold down jobs classified as “green.”

Source: GHP analysis and estimates of data from the U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) and The Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), BW Research Partnership (BWRP) and E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs)

The report also analyzed Houston's progress when it comes to emissions. Here are some of the Houston Facts on emission data from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program:

  • Houston's power plant sector was as the largest greenhouse gas emitter with 43.2 percent of the region's total industrial emissions, and the sector has had an overall increasing trend over the past few years.
  • With 27.5 percent of industrial emissions, the chemicals sector came in No. 2, but the sector peaked in 2018, slightly declined in 2019, and have remained relatively constant through 2021.
  • Refineries ranked third, with for 21.2 percent of emissions, and have remained stable without notable increase over the past few years.
  • Petroleum and natural gas sector emissions have consistently increased since 2012, except for 2017. That year, Houston's overall emission rate reached its lowest point in the past decade at 225.1 mtCO2e.
  • Currently, Houston's emission rate is slightly below the highest point of the past ten years, which was 243.2 mtCO2e recorded in 2012.
Houston Facts, as well as other reports and resources, is available on GHP's website.
Learn more about the specific missions the Houston Energy Transition Initiative is focused on — from carbon management to finding funding. Photo via htxenergytransition.com

Houston: Where energy leaders create a low-carbon future

the view from heti

Houston is the energy capital of the world, and it faces a dual challenge: fulfilling growing global energy demand while actively reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

This is why energy leaders have come together at the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, within the Greater Houston Partnership, to strengthen the region’s position for an energy-abundant, low-carbon future. HETI’s impact work is conducted through sector-specific working groups that leverage Houston’s competitive advantage. These working groups include: Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS), Clean Hydrogen, Capital Formation, Power Management, and Industry Decarbonization.

Texas Gulf Coast as a hub for carbon management

The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that CCUS is a requirement to any realistic pathway to a low-carbon, even net-zero future. This is especially true in the Houston area, which is home to one of the nation’s largest concentrated sources of carbon dioxide. Houston has the geology, knowledge, and infrastructure to support CCUS at scale. The CCUS Working Group at HETI supports key policy enablers of scaling CCUS, including supporting the state to earn permitting authority (primacy) over carbon capture (Class VI) wells. The working group is also analyzing the cumulative impacts of carbon capture on the region’s existing infrastructure and identifying key infrastructure needs for CCUS to reach scale.

Gulf Coast preparing for clean hydrogen liftoff

The Clean Hydrogen working group has created an ecosystem for Houston to lead the clean hydrogen market. The Texas Gulf Coast region is currently home to the world’s largest hydrogen system. By assessing the impact of hydrogen on the economy and the environment, this working group is positioning Houston to be a leading clean hydrogen hub.

Houston as a leader in Industry decarbonization

Houston needs technologies including but not limited to clean hydrogen and CCUS for decarbonization. The HETI Decarbonization Working Group partners with the Mission Possible Partnership and Rocky Mountain Institute to provide a measurable baseline of emissions and identify recommendations for decarbonization pathways in the Houston region.

An energy-abundant, low-carbon future will impact our region’s power management

It is expected that there will be changes in supply and demand of electricity associated with proposed energy transition and decarbonization projects in the Houston area. HETI has partnered with Mission Possible Partnership and Rocky Mountain Institute to assess the impact of energy transition and decarbonization on the growth and resilience of Houston’s regional power grid and the transmission and distribution of energy.

Making Houston a hub for energy transition finance

Financing energy projects is extremely capital intensive. Houston currently serves as a hub for implementing new technologies, and it has the potential to become a major center for financing innovative energy solutions. This includes everything from more efficient, lower-carbon production of existing resources to technological breakthroughs in energy efficiency, renewables, energy storage, and nature-based solutions. For technological breakthroughs, Houston needs a consistent flow of capital to the region, including sources and financing models from venture capital to growth capital, to debt markets and government grants. HETI’s Capital Formation Working Group has mapped inflows and outflows of capital for the energy transition in Houston and found that we need to grow Houston’s capital inflows ten times by 2040 to $150 billion per year to lead the transition. The Working Group regularly convenes for learning sessions on capital markets.

Over the last year, HETI’s working groups have moved from strategy to impact. To learn more about the outcomes of these working groups, check out these resources.

------

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.

This innovative window treatment startup announced new global patents. Photo courtesy of INOVUES

Houston sustainability startup secures major milestone for energy efficient tool

patent progress

A Houston company that retrofits windows with smart glass innovations to reduce energy use is celebrating a handful of patents across North America and China.

INOVUES announced it secured several new patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Intellectual Patent Office, and the China National Intellectual Property Administration.

“These newly awarded patents reinforce our commitment to innovation and position us as a trusted partner for investors and industry partners,” says Anas Al Kassas, INOVUES founder and CEO, in a news release.

The company now has a total of four patents granted in the United States, Canada, and China, and four more patents pending in the United States, Canada, and the European Union. Additionally, INOVUES has trademark protection granted in the EU, United Kingdom, and China.

INOVUES's unique window treatment — its Insulating Glass Retrofit (IGR) and Secondary Glass Retrofit (SWR) technologies — directly impacts the built environment. The process includes 70 percent fewer materials compared to traditional methods and building owners see a 40 percent reduction in reduction in energy consumption following installation.

Last year, the company raised $2.75 million in venture funding. Kassas said at the time that the funding was slated o be used to scale up the team and identify the best markets to target customers, adding that he was looking for regions with rising energy rates and sizable incentives for companies making energy efficient changes.

"We were able to now implement our technology in over 4 million square feet of building space — from Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, and very soon in Canada," he said in a December episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast.

Anas Al Kassas is the CEO and founder of INOVUES. Photo courtesy

The improvements are expected to reduce emissions by 241,000 metric tons a year and save over $54 million by 2043. Photo courtesy of NRG

NRG Park announces historic complex-wide sustainability project

sustainability score

A Houston organization has announced a major energy efficiency and sustainability project that, in 20 years, will end up paying for itself with the savings alone.

The project is a collaboration between Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (HCSCC), NRG Park, and Harris County. The 20-year savings of the improvements are estimated to generate more than $54 million.

"We remain committed to maintaining NRG Park's distinct position as a part of the fabric of our community and a landmark for visitors globally," Ryan Walsh, CEO and executive director of HCSCC and NRG Park, says in a news release. "These enhancements allow us to maintain our reputation for excellence and continue to deliver the best fan experiences, while exploring innovative and financially responsible approaches to sustainability."

The project, according to the news release, is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 241,000 metric tons a year. The plan includes: upgrades to HVAC equipment, building automation systems, water conservation, life safety systems and lighting improvements, and the high-efficiency chiller system.

The teams from Johnson Controls and NRG celebrated the partnership earlier this summer. Photo courtesy of Johnson Controls

Additionally, the park will integrate a system from Johnson Controls — OpenBlue Central Utility Plant — and the company will continue to measure and track results through an ongoing service agreement.

"Our partnership with Harris County and HCSCC's team to guide the enhancement initiative at NRG Park is paving the way for more sustainable practices across the sports and entertainment sector," Julie Brandt, president of Building Solutions North America at Johnson Controls, says in a statement. "We look forward to seeing how this project will inspire other industry leaders and drive smart savings and significant emissions reduction, not only in Harris County but on a national scale."

NRG Park, comprised of NRG Center, NRG Stadium and NRG Arena, is home to the annual 20-day Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL Houston Texans. The 350-acre complex will also host the College Football Playoff Championship, the FIFA World Cup, and more than 500 other events this year.

"NRG Park is a premier destination that welcomes more than 5.5 million people annually," says Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 1, in the release. "These enhancements will create a more enjoyable and resilient environment for people traveling from near and far to attend the multitude of events hosted there."

It's not the first time NRG has invested in energy efficiency. In 2014, NRG Stadium became the first professional football stadium in the country with LED lights, Elizabeth Killinger, executive vice president of NRG Retail, said at the time. NRG also became the first professional sports stadium in Texas to install solar panels. At the time, the organization also announced electric vehicle charging stations.

Earlier this year, the Houston Texans announced a sustainability project of their own. In partnership with 1PointFive, the Texans’ Preferred Carbon Removal Partner, the team launched the Touchdown for Trees program the Touchdown for Trees program to recapture carbon emissions. For every touchdown scored by the Texans in the 2022, 2023, and 2024 seasons, the team pledges to plant 1.5 trees in the greater Houston area.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

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.”

–––

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.

———

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.