The three plants are all connected to ERCOT, with two of them being in Houston and its surrounding areas. Photo via totalenergies.com

Houston, we have some (more) power. TotalEnergies has signed an agreement with TexGen to acquire $635 million three gas-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1.5 GW in Texas.

The three plants are all connected to ERCOT, with two of them being in Houston and its surrounding areas. The transaction is subject to approval by relevant authorities.

Houston’s plants will include a La Porte site with a 150 MW OCGT, southeast of Houston, and south of Houston’s Colorado Bend I plant with a 530 MW CCGT and a 74 MW open-cycle gas turbine (OCGT). The two added plants may provide flexibility and added insurance to meet the high demands of the summer heat in Texas. The third plant will be Wolf Hollow I plant with a 745 MW combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant outside of Dallas.

According to TotalEnergies, the locations of the plants will help serve the massive energy demand of the large cities and will help to offset the “intermittency of renewable power production,” as well as “the importance of the plants was highlighted during weather events that impacted power generation from renewable assets in Texas,” or was met with high demands.

The deal includes 1.5 GW additional flexible production capacity acquired by TotalEnergies that will complement its renewable capacity in Texas , which is currently 2 GW gross installed, 2 GW under construction and more than 3 GW under development .

“"We are delighted with the agreement signed with TexGen to acquire 1.5 GW of CCGT in ERCOT, “said Stephane Michel, President Gas Renewables & Power at TotalEnergies in a news release. “After the signing of several corporate PPA over the last couple of years and the recent start-up of the utility-scale Myrtle solar plant, this deal is a major milestone for our Integrated Power strategy in the ERCOT market. These plants will enable us to complement our renewable assets, intermittent by nature, provide our customers with firm power, and take advantage of the volatility of electricity prices.

"This acquisition will contribute positively to our profitability target of 12% ROACE by 2028 for our Integrated Power business segment,” Michel continues.

The Myrtle solar plant opened last month just outside of Houston.

TotalEnergies' new solar farm outside of Houston is the size of 1,800 football fields. Photo via totalenergies.com

Global energy company opens solar farm outside of Houston

up & running

A global energy corporation has a new solar farm online and operating just outside of Houston.

TotalEnergies (NYSE: TTE) has started commercial operations of its new solar farm, Myrtle Solar, just south of Houston. The farm has a capacity of 380 megawatts peak of solar production and 225 MWh of co-located batteries. Spread across the space — which is about the size of 1,800 football fields — are 705,000 solar panels producing enough electricity to power 70,000 homes.

Seventy percent of the power generated will be sourced for TotalEnergies' industrial plants in the U.S. Gulf Coast region, and the remaining 30 percent will be used by Kilroy Realty, a publicly traded real estate company, per a 15-year corporate power purchase agreement.

“We are very proud to start up Myrtle, TotalEnergies’ largest-to-date operated utility-scale solar farm with storage in the United States. This startup is another milestone in achieving our goal to build an integrated and profitable position in Texas, where ERCOT is the main electrical grid operator," Vincent Stoquart, senior vice president of renewables at TotalEnergies, says in the release. "Besides, the project will enable the Company to cover the power needs of some of its biggest U.S. industrial sites with electricity from a renewable source."

The farm is part of the company’s Go Green Project that is hoping to enable the company to cover its power needs by 2025, as well as curtail the Scope 1+2 emissions of its industrial sites in the Gulf Coast area, including Port Arthur and La Porte in Texas and Carville, Louisiana.

“Given the advantages that IRA tax exemptions are generating, we will continue to actively develop our 25 GW portfolio of projects in operation or development in the United States, to contribute to the Company’s global power generation target of more than 100 TWh by 2030,” Stoquart continues.

Myrtle Solar is also equipped with 114 high-tech Energy Storage Systems with a total capacity of 225 MWh. The technology was provided by TotalEnergies' affiliate Saft.

PJ Popovic of Houston-based Rhythm Energy looks back on summer heatwave trends. Photo via Shutterstock

Houston expert looks at wholesale pricing trends occurring this summer

guest column

This summer’s heatwave had a lot of Texans feeling uncomfortable, and it was not just the sweltering triple-digit temperatures, and even higher heat indexes, that had us sweating. With much of the state hitting over 100 degrees for weeks, air conditioners were working overtime to keep homes and businesses cool. That added load, coupled with general demand growth, put a heavy burden on the Texas power grid — and that puts the state in a precarious position.

We all remember Uri in February 2021, when an inch-thick coat of ice hampered power companies' ability to generate power, leading to widespread and lasting power outages across the state. The recent heat wave, however, was different. This past summer, the concern for Texas and ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas) was not whether generation would fail, but whether generation capacity could keep pace with peak demand. And what would be the wholesale electricity price to ensure that it did.

The generation mix

As robust as our electricity grid is, on any given day the balance between power supply and demand remains fairly tenuous. In its summer Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, ERCOT projected its power-generation capacity at 97,000 MW. However, that daily capacity number can be misleading.

As Texas’ generation mix leans to a greater degree toward renewable power and we retire more coal and natural gas fired generation plants, our generation output becomes less predictable. Operators can practically flip a switch to turn on fossil fuel generation plants and quickly dispatch its power. Renewable generation, on the other hand, is intermittent and its output by no means guaranteed. While the state’s current combined wind and solar generation can potentially deliver up to 30,000 megawatts, if the right weather conditions are not there, neither is the power.

Meanwhile, the demand for power in Texas has increased dramatically. In recent years, we have seen significant population growth, electrification as well as new business expansion throughout the state. Some of the businesses moving here draw huge loads of power from the grid — think about the companies mining digital currency or Elon Musk’s SpaceX facilities in Central Texas, just to name a few. A considerable demand curve increase occurring simultaneously with the move to more renewable generation challenges the delicate balance of the grid.

Trends and lessons learned from the summer’s wholesale electricity pricing

ERCOT manages the flow of electricity across the state of Texas. It also oversees the wholesale bulk power market whereby generators are paid primarily for the electricity they supply to the grid. To incentivize the development of future generating capacity, ERCOT employs scarcity pricing — that means that commodity prices escalate dramatically as supply becomes constrained.

This summer, ERCOT faced unprecedented demand with daily electricity usage frequently nearing generation capacity limits. Consequently, electricity prices were notably volatile, often skyrocketing exponentially.

ERCOT employs a complex series of pricing mechanisms to establish its real-time price for each megawatt. A deep dive analysis (INSERT LINK) found that the Locational Margin Prices, or LMP, were significantly higher than previous years, even when reserve generation capacities were robust and fuel prices were similar to or lower than prior years.

So, what contributed to the higher than usual prices? Certainly, changes to ERCOT operations, market design tweaks, and transmission constraints contributed, but market prices were most driven by generators’ offer pricing curves.

Now, more than four months removed from the start of the heat wave in June, we can see how different various technologies priced their offerings. The data suggests that a segment of resources, notably battery storage, set their offer prices near or at the system-wide offer price cap. Given the anticipated rise of batteries as the primary dispatchable resource within the grid in coming years, this pricing behavior warrants closer scrutiny.

Offer pricing curves appear to have created a semblance of shortage pricing, evident in the heightened LMPs, even when reserve capacities were not especially scarce. This would suggest that a significant portion of the dispatchable capacity integrated into ERCOT was priced at levels typically seen only in grid emergency conditions

Key questions

Why are the recently added dispatchable resources garnering such high offer prices? Are there operational hurdles in integrating and dispatching batteries, challenges in market design, inherent limitations of batteries on the grid, or other factors contributing to these high offer prices from battery resources? Given that batteries are poised to play a central role in the transition to renewable energy sources, answering these questions will be key.

The current pricing trends in the ERCOT market, if sustained, could lead to increased electricity rates and/or increased price volatility for end-users, underscoring the importance of monitoring and addressing these market dynamics.

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PJ Popovic is the CEO of Houston-based Rhythm Energy.

Events not to miss, a new app launches for the energy industry, and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

New energy networking app, events you can't miss, and more things to know in Houston this week

Hou knew?

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem. Meet the new leaders of ERCOT, an app you probably should download, and events not to miss this week.

Energy networking: There's an app for that

This Houston-based media company launched a networking platform to help solve the energy crisis. Screenshots via apps.apple.com

The Digital Wildcatters have created a platform for individuals to get their questions answered by experts and a space for companies seeking qualified talent. Collide is structured to ignite the next generation of energy innovators, as Collin McLelland, co-founder and CEO of Digital Wildcatters, tells EnergyCapital.

“If you look at what we’ve done historically with Digital Wildcatters, we’ve built an extremely engaged community of energy professionals — it’s a next generation community, very young forward thinking professionals that are working towards solving the world’s energy crisis,” McLelland says.

The roll out of Collide has been intentionally gradual, McLelland says because they want to shape the user experience based on feedback from ongoing focus groups. Currently they have about 1,000 users and are examining how they can make the app valuable to them before providing the platform to a wider audience.

McLelland says there are two major issues within the energy sector that Collide hopes to address — a lack of knowledge about energy verticals and difficulty recruiting talent.

“What we really see with our platform is being able to bring people together where if you want to find a piece of information, you need to find a subject matter expert, or if you want to find your next job, it happens on the Collide platform,” McLelland says. Read the full story.

Upcoming must-attend events to put on your radar

Two events this month the energy transition community needs to know about. Photos by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

  • September 14-15 — The Ninth Annual Digitalization in Oil & Gas Conference will focus on digitalization, decarbonization, and innovation within the energy industry across five tracks: IoT, blockchain, digital twins, edge computing, and connectivity for upstream, midstream, and downstream operators.
  • September 21 — The Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum is an opportunity to learn about the latest emerging technologies, meet investors to seek funding, see promising companies, and more.

People to know this week

A quick who's who roundup from last week's EnergyCapital coverage. Photo via Getty Images

Missed some of EnergyCapital's news from last week? Catch up on who to know here.

  • The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, announced a reorganization amongst its leadership. Effective September 1, four ERCOT leaders have new titles and positions: Woody Rickerson has been named to the newly created position of senior vice president and COO; KristiHobbs, who previously served as vice president of corporate strategy and public utility commission relations, will replace Rickerson as vice president of system planning and weatherization and will report directly to Rickerson; BettyDay, vice president of security and compliance and chief compliance officer, has assumed oversight of business continuity; and RebeccaZerwas will serve as director of state policy and public utility commission relations, board liaison. Read the full story.
  • Launched in 2022, The Texas Southern University Division for Research & Innovation is spearheading the institutions efforts in attaining the highest-tier classification for research in higher education institutions. Michelle Penn-Marshall, who serves as vice president for the division, recently sat down with the Houston Energy Transition Initiative to talk about the university’s mission to become a leader in research and the long-term goals for engaging students in the energy sector and advancing the energy transition. Read the full story.
  • With over a billion cars currently on the road — each with four tires that will eventually end up discarded, one Houstonian is hoping to create the infrastructure to sustainably dispose of tire waste now and into the future. VibhuSharma founded InnoVent Renewables to establish production facilities that utilize a proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals. In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Sharma explains his plans to sustainably impact the tire waste space and his vision for his company. Read the full story.

ERCOT will close 2023 with nearly 3.3 gigawatts of battery storage capacity and almost 10.7 gigawatts by the end of 2024. That would represent a one-year jump of 225 percent. Photo via Getty Images

Texas sees major increase in battery storage capacity, according to a new report

by the numbers

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas — which runs the power grid serving about 90 percent of the state — is energizing the rise of U.S. battery storage capacity.

A new report from data provider S&P Global Commodity Insights forecasts that ERCOT will close 2023 with nearly 3.3 gigawatts of battery storage capacity and almost 10.7 gigawatts by the end of 2024. That would represent a one-year jump of 225 percent.

Austin-based ERCOT is expected to add nearly 400 megawatts of battery storage capacity during the third quarter after adding no capacity in the second quarter, according to S&P Global.

In terms of bulking up battery storage capacity, ERCOT had a momentous first quarter. The nonprofit organization added 498.6 megawatts of battery storage capacity during the first three months of 2023, accounting for 70.2 percent of all new capacity in the U.S., says S&P Global.

One gigawatt, which equals one billion watts, can provide enough power for about 750,000 homes.

ERCOT’s battery storage capacity has contributed to a lack of power outages during this year’s scorching summer heat in Texas. However, it’s worth noting that this summer’s wave of triple-digit temperatures is straining the ERCOT grid, prompting a series of pleas for Texans to conserve energy.

ERCOT set a new September peak demand record of 78,459 megawatts September 4, surpassing the previous September peak of 72,370 megawatts set on September 1, 2021. The current all-time peak demand, 85,435 megawatts, was set August 10.

As of September 5, ERCOT has set 10 records this year for peak demand. In 2022, ERCOT set 11 peak demand records, surpassing 80 gigawatts for the first time.

“Based on expected weather conditions, ERCOT anticipates there will be sufficient generation to meet customer demand this summer,” ERCOT said in its forecast for summertime power demand.

ERCOT’s combined solar and wind share of overall power generation is projected to reach 43 percent by 2035, according to S&P Global.

“Firing on all green energy cylinders, despite a long-surpassed renewable portfolio standard,” says S&P Global, “Texas leads the U.S. in operating and planned wind energy as well as solar and battery storage capacity in development … .”

Houston is playing a pivotal role in Texas’ adoption of battery storage of wind and solar power, with companies like Broad Reach Power and Key Capture Energy among the leaders.

“Known for its strong ties with oil and gas, Texas and Houston in particular are changing the narrative on their relationships with energy, with new innovations and initiatives being created to combat the effects of climate change and to create better, more efficient energy systems for years to come,” says the Greater Houston Partnership.

More than three-fourths of the 20.8 gigawatts of utility-scale battery storage capacity on track to be installed from 2022 to 2025 will be in Texas (7.9 gigawatts) and California (7.6 gigawatts), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

ERCOT has made four leadership changes. Photo courtesy of ERCOT

ERCOT makes major leadership changes, names COO

reorganization

Last week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, announced a reorganization amongst its leadership.

“These changes were designed to harness the collaborative talents and strengths of our experienced team in supporting the delivery of reliable and efficient energy to the millions of Texans that we serve,” Pablo Vegas, ERCOT President and CEO, says in a news release.

Effective September 1, four ERCOT leaders have new titles and positions.

Woody Rickerson has been named to the newly created position of senior vice president and COO of ERCOT. He previously served as vice president of system planning and weatherization. In his new role, he will maintain control over weatherization and planning while adding grid and commercial operations to his responsibilities.

“This new position will leverage Rickerson’s deep operations experience and support ERCOT’s continued investments in grid innovations,” adds Vegas.

Kristi Hobbs, who previously served as vice president of corporate strategy and public utility commission relations, will replace Rickerson as vice president of system planning and weatherization and will report directly to Rickerson. She will oversee transmission planning, generator interconnection activities, modeling, and weatherization in her new role.

ERCOT announced two other appointments:

  • Betty Day, vice president of security and compliance and chief compliance officer, has assumed oversight of business continuity.
  • Rebecca Zerwas will serve as director of state policy and public utility commission relations, board liaison.

“As our industry faces dynamic changes, ERCOT is continuously evolving and making the necessary improvements to the grid to support the needs of a growing population and robust economy," Vegas says. "This reorganization allows us to sharpen our focus on daily operations while implementing our long-term strategic plan."

Images via ERCOT.com

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Houston companies land DOE vouchers for clean tech

money moves

Ten Houston-area companies will receive vouchers from the Department of Energy's latest round of funding to support the adoption of clean energy tech.

The companies are among 111 organizations to receive up to $250,000 in vouchers from the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions, totaling $9.8 million in funding, according to a release from the department.

The voucher program is in collaboration with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). It is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“It takes a breadth of tools and expertise to bring an innovative technology from research and development to deployment,” Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, says in a statement. “The Voucher Program will pair 111 clean energy solutions with the support they need from expert voucher providers to help usher new technologies to market.”

In addition to the funding, the program seeks to help small businesses and non-traditional organizations gain access to testing facilities and third-party expertise.

The vouchers come in five different opportunities that focus on different areas of business growth and support:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1 (VO1) - Pre-Demonstration Commercialization Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 2 (VO2) - Performance Validation, Modeling, and Certification Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 3 (VO3) - Clean Energy Demonstration Project Siting/Permitting Support
  • Voucher Opportunity 4 (VO4) - Commercialization Support (for companies with a functional technology prototype)
  • Voucher Opportunity 5 (VO5) - Commercialization Support (for developers, including for-profit firms, that are working to commercialize a prototype that fits a specific technology vertical of interest for DOE)

The 10 Houston-area companies to receive funding, their voucher type and projects include:

  • Terradote Inc. with Big Blue Technologies Inc. (VO2): Full ISO-Compliant Life Cycle Assessment for Clean Energy Technologies
  • Solugen Inc. and Encina with ACTion Battery Technologies L.L.C. and Frontline Waste Holding LLC (Vo2): Barracuda Virtual Reactor Simulation, Validation and Testing
  • Flow Safe with Concept Group LLC and Precision Fluid Control (VO2): Durability Testing of Hydrogen Components, Materials, and Storage Systems
  • Percheron Power LLC (VO4): Fundraising Support
  • Capwell Services Inc. with Banyu Carbon Inc. (VO5): Field Testing Support for Validation of Novel Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Syzygy Plasmonics with Ample Carbon PBC, Terraform Industries, Lydian Labs Inc. and Vycarb Inc. (VO5): Rapid Life Cycle Assessment for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Solidec Inc. with GreenFire Energy (VO5): LCA Calculator Tool for Carbon Management or Resource Sustainability Technologies
  • Encino Environmental Services LLC with Wood Cache, Completion Corp and Carbon Lockdown (VO5): Realtime Above/Underground Gas Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Including Cloud Connectivity for Remote Sites
  • Mati Carbon PBC with Ebb Carbon Inc. (VO5): Community Benefits Assessment and Environmental Justice

Other Texas-based companies to receive funding included Molecular Rebar Design LLC and Talus Renewables from Austin, Deep Anchor Solutions from College Station, and ACTion Battery Technologies LLC from Wichita Falls.

Last October, the DOE also awarded the Houston area more than $2 million for projects that improve energy efficiency and infrastructure in the region.

In December, its Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations also selected a Houston power company for a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage project cost-sharing agreement.

New global report names top cleantech startups to keep an eye on

seeing green

Nine Greentown Labs members were recognized on a global list honoring cleantech companies.

Houston-based Fervo Energy was named to Cleantech Group’s Global Cleantech 100 report. Cleantech Group is a research-driven company that aids the public sector, private sector, investors, and also identifies, assesses, and engages with the innovative solutions around climate challenges.

Fervo, a geothermal energy company that specializes in a renewable energy technology that uses hot water to produce electricity, debuted in 2022 on the list, and was honored in the “Energy & Power” category for the second straight year.

The other Greentown Labs, which is dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, companies recognized on the list include:

  • Amogy, a New York-based novel carbon-free energy system using ammonia as a renewable fuel
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies, a Canadian waste and carbon utilization company
  • Dandelion Energy, New York-based company offering ground source heat pumps for most homes
  • Energy Dome, a Milan-based company addressing the problem of long-duration energy storage
  • e-Zinc, a Canadian company with a breakthrough electrochemical technology for energy storage
  • Nth Cycle, a Massachusetts company with sustainable metal refining
  • Raptor Maps, a Massachusetts company with a software platform for solar assets' performance data management
  • Sublime Systems, a Massachusetts companydeveloping a breakthrough process for low-carbon cement
  • WeaveGrid, a California company working with utilities, automakers, EVSEs, and EV owners to enable and accelerate the electrification of transportation

The number of nominations from the public, a panel, i3, awards and Cleantech Group totaled 25,435 from over 65 countries, which is a 61% increase from the 2023 nomination process. Winners were chosen from a short list of 330 companies by a panel of over 80 industry experts.

While not on the list, Beaumont-based Fortress Energy was mentioned for its electrolyzer supply agreement with Cleantech Group 100 winner Electric Hydrogen.

The Cleantech Group 100 was started 15 years ago.

“In 15 more years, we will be at 2039—by which time, a mere decade out from the ‘net-zero’ target of 2050,” Cleantech Group CEO Richard Youngman says in the report. “I would expect the composition of our annual list to have markedly changed again, and the leading upcoming private companies of that time to reflect such.”