A Houston-based initiative has been selected by the DOE to receive funding to develop clean energy innovation programming for startups and entrepreneurs. Photo via Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The City of Houston is aiming to have Arco del Tiempo installed in 2024. Photo courtesy of The City of Houston

Sustainable sculpture to power Houston multicultural arts building

arts meets energy transition

The City of Houston has unveiled the first look at the latest permanent public artwork that will be installed in the Second Ward in 2024. The sculpture is the first-ever environmentally sustainable art piece that will generate electricity for the nearby City-owned Latino multicultural performing arts theater.

Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) is a 100-foot tall arch designed by Berlin-based artist and architect Riccardo Mariano. Several years have been put into the making of this project, dating as far back as 2019. Mariano had entered the idea into a Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) design competition in the Houston sister-city of Abu Dhabi. From there, it was chosen to be developed full-scale and installed at Guadalupe Plaza Park.

According to a press release, the sculpture can measure time and cast beams of sunlight onto the ground, creating a connection between "the celestial and the terrestrial" through the geometry of the design.

The light beams are different based on the four seasons and the time of day, constantly shifting and responding to the latitude and longitude of the city from space. Mariano said that his sculpture is a "practical example" of how physical art can interact with the abstract, such as the Earth's movement around the sun.

"The apparent movement of the sun in the sky activates the space with light and colors and engages viewers who participate in the creation of the work by their presence," said Mariano. "Arco del Tiempo merges renewable energy generation with public space and into the everyday life of the Second Ward. Inspired by science and powered by renewable energy, the artwork is a bridge between art and technology and encourages educational purposes while improving public space. At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events.”

"At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events,” Riccardo Mariano said.Photo courtesy of The City of Houston

Arco del Tiempo will do more than just be an aesthetically pleasing sight for the community. Its meaningful, functional purpose will be to generate about 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and power the Talento Bilingüe de Houston. LAGI founding co-director Elizabeth Monoian said in the release the sculpture will generate over 12 million kilowatt-hours of power throughout its lifetime, which equals the removal of 8,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"Through the clean energy it produces, Arco del Tiempo will pay back its embodied carbon footprint," Monoian said. "In other words, all the energy that went into its making—from the smelting of the steel to the drilling that puts the final cladding into place—will be offset through the energy it generates. Beyond its break-even point, which we will track and celebrate with the community, the artwork will be a net-positive contributor to a healthy climate and the planet will be better off for its existence.”

In a statement, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner praised the unique art piece as more than just a sculpture, but as a "monument to a new era of energy."

"The City of Houston has always stood at the vanguard of energy innovation and the Arco del Tiempo artwork stands in that tradition, highlighting Houston’s role as an art city and as global leader in the energy transition," Mayor Turner said. "We are inspired by the vision and creative thinking. Marrying clean energy, the built environment, and truly World Class art is Houston.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The deadline to apply to participate in an upcoming energy-focused event is approaching. Photo courtesy of Rice

Rice Alliance calls for participants for its annual energy conference

now's the time to apply

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Energy Tech Venture Day, a one-day symposium for energy innovation put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The organization is currently calling for applications for startups interested in participating.

The event is taking place on September 21 at Rice University and will bring together energy innovators, investors, corporate leaders, and the rest of the energy ecosystem. The programming will include panels and discussions as well as startup pitches from the Rice Alliance's Clean Energy Accelerator 2023 cohort.

In addition to the CEA pitches, energy tech startups from around the world can apply to be a part of the day and be in the running to be recognized as a select group as the "most-promising" at the conclusion of the pitches. Applications can be filled out online and are due July 14. Registration is also open online.

According to Rice, 90 or so companies will be selected to participate in one-on-one meetings with around 75 investors. The organization conducts a unique matchmaking round that pairs up investors and founders for four to 10 of these office hour meetings which will take place the day before the main event.

On the day of the Energy Tech Venture Day, around 40 companies will pitch to the rest of the crowd. At the end of the day and based off the investor feedback from the one-on-one meetings, 10 energy tech startups will be deemed the most-promising businesses and be presented with awards.

Last year, over a third of the companies that pitched were based in the Houston area. Two Houston-based companies received awards at the end of the day, including:

  • Kanin Energy, which works with heavy Industry to turn their waste heat into a clean baseload power source. The platform also provides tools such as project development, financing, and operations.
  • Syzygy Plasmonics, which is commercializing its light-reacting energy, which would greatly reduce carbon emissions in the chemical industry. The technology originated out of Rice University.
At Houston event, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy announced $100 million in cleantech funding. Photos by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

National agency announces $100M in funding for energy advancement at Houston event

seeing green

Rice University played host to the first-of-its-kind event from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, earlier this month in which the governmental agency announced $100 million in funding for its SCALEUP program.

Dubbed “ARPA-E on the Road: Houston,” the event welcomed more than 100 energy innovators to the Hudspeth Auditorium in Rice’s Anderson-Clarke Center on June 8. Evelyn Wang, director of ARPA-E, announced the funding, which represents the third installment from the agency for its program SCALEUP, or Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential, which supports the commercialization of clean energy technology.

The funding is awarded to previous ARPA-E awardees with a "viable road to market" and "ability to attract private sector investments," according to a statement from the Department of Energy. Previous funding was granted in 2019 and 2021.

"ARPA-E’s SCALEUP program has successfully demonstrated what can happen when technical experts are empowered with the commercialization support to develop a strong pathway to market” Wang said. “I’m excited that we are building on the success of this effort with the third installment of SCALEUP, and I look forward to what the third cohort of teams accomplish.”

Rice Vice President for Research Ramamoorthy Ramesh also spoke at the event on how Rice is working to make Houston a leader in energy innovation. Joe Zhou, CEO of Houston-based Quidnet Energy, also spoke on a panel about how ARPA-E funding benefited his company along with Oregon-based Onboard Dynamics’s CEO Rita Hansen and Massachusetts-based Quaise Energy’s CEO Carlos Araque.

Attendees were able to ask questions to Wang and ARPA-E program directors about the agency’s funding approach and other topics at the event.

Houston energy innovators have benefited from programs like SCALEUP.

Quidnet Energy received $10 million in funding from ARPA-E as part of its SCALEUP program in 2022. The company's technology can store renewable energy for long periods of time in large quantities.

In January, Houston-based Zeta Energy also announced that it has secured funding from ARPA-E. The $4 million in funding came from the agency's Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living, or EVs4ALL, program. Zeta Energy is known for its lithium sulfur batteries

Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo courtesy

Houston energy innovator on why now's the right time for energy transition innovation

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 190

The cleantech innovation space has momentum, and Chevron strives to be one of the incumbent energy companies playing a role in that movement, Jim Gable, vice president of innovation at Chevron and president of Chevron Technology Ventures, shares on the Houston Innovators Podcast.

"People call it cleantech 2.0, but it's really cleantech 3.0," Gable says, explaining how he's been there for each wave of cleantech. "The people are better now — the entrepreneurs are better, the investors are better. Exits are here in the cleantech space."

"It's all driven by policy-enabled markets, and the policy is here now too. Twenty years ago, you didn't have nearly the same level of policy influence that you do now," he continues. "Things are coming together to help us really create and deliver that affordable, reliable, ever cleaner energy that's going to be needed for a long time."

Both CTV and Gable have been operating with this vision of cleaner, more reliable and affordable energy for over two decades. Gable, who's worked in various leadership roles across the company, returned to a job in the venture side of the business in 2021. He's officially relocated to Houston to lead CTV, which is based in the Ion.

CTV acts as Chevron's external innovation bridge, evaluating pitches from around 1,000 companies a year, funding and accelerating startups, working with internal teams to implement new tech, and more, as Gable explains. Under CTV's umbrella is the venture fund, the Catalyst Program, and the Chevron Studio, a newer initiative that matches entrepreneurs with technology research in order to take that tech to market.

"We say we open doors to the future within Chevron," he says on the show. "We're the onramp for early stage technology to get into the company."

Now that he's firmly planted in the Houston innovation ecosystem, Gable says is optimistic about the incumbents and the innovators coming together in Houston to forge the future of energy.

"I would just encourage Houston to not try to be something that we're not. Houston's got to be Houston, and I don't think we should try, necessarily, to follow the same path as Palo Alto or Boston," Gable says, adding that Houston's large and specialized energy sector is not a disadvantage. "We may not have the same breadth of primary research that other ecosystems have, and that's perfectly OK."

Gable shares more on his perspective of Houston's ecosystem and the energy transition as a whole on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

According to a new report, the existing energy infrastructure of Texas makes it a great spot to lead the development of the hydrogen economy. Photo via Getty Images

Report: Texas is the best place to lead hydrogen economy

as the experts say

All signs point to Texas leading the development of a hydrogen market, says one new report out of Rice University.

The Baker Institute for Public Policy released a new report this week about the hydrogen economy and the role Texas will play in it. According to the experts, Texas’ legacy energy industry — as well as its geology — makes it an ideal hub for hydrogen as an energy source. Ken Medlock, senior director of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies, and Shih Yu (Elsie) Hung, research manager at the center, wrote the report.

“Texas is in a very advantageous position to play a leading role in driving hydrogen market growth, but the evolution of policy and market structure will dictate whether or not this comes to pass,” write the co-authors.

Medlock and Hung make the case for hydrogen's impact on the energy transition in the report.

“It can be produced in a number of different ways — including steam-methane reforming, electrolysis and pyrolysis — so it can leverage a variety of comparative advantages across regions,” they write.

The report explains that — with the state's existing and robust oil and gas infrastructure — Texas is the best spot to affordably develop hydrogen while managing economic challenges. Plus, Texas's coastal geology is an advantageous spot for storage and transport.

One factor to be determined, write the authors, is whether or not the policy will support the industry's growth.

“(Hydrogen’s) expansion as an energy carrier beyond its traditional uses in industrial applications will depend heavily on significant investment in infrastructure and well-designed market structures with appropriate regulatory architectures,” they write. “A lack of either will risk coordination failure along hydrogen supply chains and, thus, threaten to derail any momentum that may currently be building.”

GTI Energy and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation funded this report.

Last summer, the Center for Houston's Future reported how Houston-based assets can be leveraged to lead a global clean hydrogen innovation. The Houston region already produces and consumes a third of the nation’s hydrogen, according to the report, and has more than 50 percent of the country’s dedicated hydrogen pipelines. These assets can be utilized to accelerate a transition to clean hydrogen, and the report lays out how.

"Using this roadmap as a guide and with Houston’s energy sector at the lead, we are ready to create a new clean hydrogen economy that will help fight climate change as it creates jobs and economic growth,” says Center for Houston’s Future CEO Brett Perlman. “We are more than ready, able and willing to take on these goals, as our record of overwhelming success in energy innovation and new market development shows.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Law firm's Houston office expands energy expertise

new hire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shell fuels energy transition with roll out of EV charging stations

coming soon

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.