Houston energy transition folks — here's what to know to start your week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: Start your week off strong with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a Houston energy executive to know, and more.

Calling all energy tech startups

The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI) and TEX-E have opened applications for their Energy Venture Day and Pitch Competition at CERAWeek, set to take place in the Agora program on March 20.

The pitch day will feature more than 40 energy ventures driving efficiency and advancements toward the energy transition showcasing their companies. The fast-paced competition is designed to connect energy startups with venture capitalists, corporate innovation groups, industry leaders, academics and service providers.

Energy ventures for all tracks of the competition are asked to apply online by Feb. 9. Read more.

David Pruner named executive director of Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy (TEX-E)

David Pruner will lead the Texas Entrepreneurship Exchange for Energy, known as TEX-E, which is comprised of partners including Greentown Labs, MIT’s Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, and universities across Texas. Additionally, Julia Johansson was appointed chief of staff for TEX-E and will oversee operations and administration responsibilities.

“Dave is the ideal leader for TEX-E to build on the great work that’s been done to develop a robust entrepreneurial energy ecosystem across these five impressive universities in Texas and to directly inspire and support university students to pursue entrepreneurial careers that will power our clean energy future,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. Read more.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • Future of Energy Summit is Tuesday, February 6, at AC Hotel by Marriott Houston Downtown. Register.
  • The De Lange Conference, taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, is centered around the theme “Brave New Worlds: Who Decides? Research, Risk and Responsibility” this year. Register.

Here are three things to know in Houston energy transition news. Photo via Getty Images

Texas EV climate disappoints, a new renewable exec, and more Houston energy transition things to know

take note

Editor's note: Start your week off strong with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a Houston energy executive to know, and more.

Needs improvement: Texas finishes low on list of EV charging stations despite increased efforts in Houston

A SmartAsset study looked at the closest EV charging stations equivalent to a trip to the gas station — factoring in each state's population. California, with its 14,500 charging stations, has five times the EV charging stations as New York (3,327), Florida (2,913) and Texas (2,472). While California ranked No. 1 on the list, Texas found itself at No. 41.

The report used EV charger and station data for each state from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2022 and 2021. Population data is for 2022 and comes from the U.S. Census Bureau 1-Year American Community Survey. Cities were also ranked by the number of fast chargers per capita. In 2022, Texas had 1,386 fast DC chargers, 2,472 EV charging stations, and a fast charger growth year over year 53.5 percent. Read more.

Incoming:  Houston recycling company names new CEO

David Hudson has been named CEO of Elemental Recycling. The company, founded in 2019, is an investment of Freestone, a portfolio company of Tailwater Capital. He succeeds Tom Samuels, former CEO and board chair of the company.

"With over two decades of proven expertise in driving strategic growth and profitability across the recycling, waste management, sustainability, and decarbonization sectors, David brings a wealth of experience that makes him the ideal leader to take the reins and guide Elemental into its next phase of innovation and growth," Samuels says in a news release. "I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead for the company under David's leadership. His proven track record and passion for driving positive change make him the perfect steward for the next chapter of Elemental's journey." Read more.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • The Houston Oil and Gas Executive Leadership Summit is an meeting of executives, policymakers, academics, and other professionals with a particular interest related to energy. The event is January 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston. Register.
  • Future of Energy Summit is Tuesday, February 6, at AC Hotel by Marriott Houston Downtown. Register.
  • The De Lange Conference, taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, is centered around the theme “Brave New Worlds: Who Decides? Research, Risk and Responsibility” this year. Register.

Here are three things to know in Houston energy transition news. Photo via Getty Images

Deloitte's new energy lead, a $7.4B deal, and more things to know this week

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Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a Houston energy executive to know, and more.

Incoming: Deloitte names new head of energy, chemicals practice

Teresa Thomas was named vice chair and national sector leader for energy and chemicals at Deloitte. She takes over the role from Amy Chronis, partner at Deloitte LLP, who will continue to serve within the energy and chemicals practice until her retirement in June 2024.

"I am fortunate to have worked in the energy and chemicals industry for most of my career, and I'm honored to continue working with companies that are playing a pivotal role in powering progress and purpose," Thomas says in a news release. "Our industry is at the epicenter of the energy transition that can fuel tremendous potential for society, and I'm excited to be leading during this important and transformational time."

Last year, Chronis announced her retirement from Deloitte, and the company named Melinda Yee as the incoming Houston managing partner at Deloitte, a role Chronis held in addition to the title of vice chair and US energy and chemicals leader. Chronis is slated to retire in June 2024, and Yee's new role became effective this month. Read more.

Events not to miss

Put these Houston-area energy-related events on your calendar.

  • Energy Underground's January meeting is on January 18 at noon at the Esperson Building. Register.
  • The Houston Oil and Gas Executive Leadership Summit is an meeting of executives, policymakers, academics, and other professionals with a particular interest related to energy. The event is January 25 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston. Register.
  • Future of Energy Summit is Tuesday, February 6, at AC Hotel by Marriott Houston Downtown. Register.
  • The De Lange Conference, taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, is centered around the theme “Brave New Worlds: Who Decides? Research, Risk and Responsibility” this year. Register.

Really big deal: Southwestern Energy to combine with Chesapeake in $7.4B deal

Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy are combining in a $7.4 billion all-stock deal to form one of the biggest natural gas producers in the U.S.

The transaction, valued at $6.69 per share, will create a company that has large scale acreage in the Appalachia region and Haynesville, Louisiana. It has current net production of approximately 7.9 Bcfe/d with more than 5,000 gross locations and 15 years of inventory.

“The world is short energy and demand for our products is growing, both in the U.S. and overseas," Chesapeake CEO Nick Dell’Osso said in a prepared statement Thursday. "We will be positioned to deliver more natural gas at a lower cost, accelerating America’s energy reach and fueling a more affordable, reliable, and lower carbon future." Read more.

The De Lange Conference is taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University

Upcoming Houston conference to address biology, technology and climate change

on the radar

Every other year, Rice University hosts a conference that addresses "issues of great concern to society," and this year will look at the intersection of technology, biology, and climate change.

The De Lange Conference, taking place February 9 and 10 at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, is centered around the theme “Brave New Worlds: Who Decides? Research, Risk and Responsibility” this year. Chaired by Luis Campos, Baker College Chair for the History of Science, Technology and Innovation, the conference is an initiative of Rice’s faculty-led consortium Scientia Institute.

“We wanted to have a broad topic that would connect a lot of different disciplines and parts of campus,” Campos says in a news release. “Synthetic biology, the uses of data, climate change—whatever our field, job or profession, we have all heard of these things, and we all want to know more about them. So we’re bringing in scholars, scientists and artists to think about how these frontiers of scientific innovation and research relate to larger social contexts.

“Everybody is concerned with the future of their health, the future of their society, the future of the climate that they live in and the future of how their data is being used. This is a conference that weaves all those realms together with forms of artistic intervention and creative practice.”

Rice’s De Lange Conference explores future of synthetic biology, data technology and climate changewww.youtube.com

Attendees of the event can anticipate two days of discussions led by thought leaders, artistic interventions, screenings, and more from a roster of scientists, researchers, scholars, and artists. The full schedule is listed online.

The event is free to attend, but registration is required.

Here are three things to know in Houston energy transition news this week. Photo via Getty Images

3 things to know: Houston energy events not to miss, podcast to stream, and more

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Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition: events not to miss, a podcast to stream, and more.

Events not to miss:

Add these events to your radar:

    • November 30 - Carbon to Value Initiative Year 3 Final Showcase will be streamed online. Register.
    • December 4 - Pumps & Pipes Annual Event is Houston's premier innovation gathering bringing together cross-industry leaders for engaging discussions and top tier networking opportunities. Register.
    • December 7 - Greentown Labs Investor Speaker Series: Both Sides of the Coin will host a thoughtful fireside chat followed by networking. Register.

    Deadline to be aware of: EnergyTech UP

    The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship will host the regional qualifier for a Department of Energy-backed student competition, and the application deadline to participate is coming up.

    The DOE's EnergyTech University Prize, or EnergyTech UP, a virtual regional qualifier hosted by the Rice Alliance will take place in February, and applications for students and faculty are now open. A $400,000 collegiate competition, the program challenges student teams to develop a business plan based off of National Laboratory-developed or other emerging energy technology.

    The application deadline is February 1 for students, and faculty have until January 5 to apply. Learn more.

    Podcast to stream: Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures, on the Houston Innovators Podcast

    When it comes to the future of aviation — namely, making it more sustainable, a rising tide lifts all boats. Or, in this case, planes.

    Andrew Chang, managing director of United Airlines Ventures, explains that working together is the key for advancing sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. That's why United Airlines started the Sustainable Flight Fund, a $200 million initiative with support from industry leaders, including Air Canada, Boeing, GE Aerospace, JPMorgan Chase, Honeywell, Aramco Ventures, Bank of America, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Ventures, and several others.

    "We all recognize that we may compete in our core business, but with the importance of sustainable aviation fuel and given that it's an industry that doesn't exist — you can't compete for something that doesn't exist — let's collaborate and work together to explore technologies that can directly or indirectly support the commercialization and production of sustainable aviation fuel," he says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. Read more.

    Cruise pauses in Houston and beyond — and more things to know this week. Photo via Cruise/Facebook

    Robotaxi put it in park, events not to miss, and other things to know in Houston energy transition news

    get up to speed

    Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem: events not to miss, robotaxis take a break, and more.

    Events this week

    Don't miss these two events.

    • November 7-8: Hydrogen North America 2024 will host the hydrogen sector's thought leaders for a two-day event. Learn more.
    • November 8 — The Houston Innovation Awards will honor the city's startups, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem, including energy tech innovators. Learn more.

    Cruise hits the brakes

    Cruise launched in Houston in October. Photo courtesy of Cruise

    Self-driving taxi service, Cruise, which recently launched in Houston, has put it in park for the time being, as TechCrunch reported last month.

    The company's California permit was rescinded, and Cruise announced a national pause on its service in a statement.

    "The most important thing for us right now is to take steps to rebuild public trust. Part of this involves taking a hard look inwards and at how we do work at Cruise, even if it means doing things that are uncomfortable or difficult," reads the statement. "In that spirit, we have decided to proactively pause driverless operations across all of our fleets while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and reflect on how we can better operate in a way that will earn public trust. This is not related to any new on-road incidents, and our supervised AV operations will continue."

    Meet LYB — and its latest sustainability deal

    LyondellBasell has rebranded as LYB. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

    LyondellBasell has rebranded as LYB, revealing a new logo, tagline, and visual identity.

    “With our new strategy firmly in place, our employees are adopting new ways of working to generate innovative, value-enhancing solutions to support our goals,” Peter Vanacker, LYB's CEO, says in the release.

    The Dutch company, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston, also recently announced that it has purchased a 25 percent stake in a joint venture that seeks to accelerate advancements in plastic recycling.

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    Houston startup taps new corporate partner for AI-backed sustainability consumer tech

    out of the boxes

    With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

    IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

    The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

    CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

    “That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

    Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

    “I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

    Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

    The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

    In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

    “This is very powerful,” he says.

    Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

    This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

    Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

    Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

    Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

    Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

    “We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

    Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

    “It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

    Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

    “Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

    The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

    Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

    ---

    This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

    Houston software company to manage IRA compliance for solar, storage company with national presence

    tapping into tech

    Houston company's Inflation Reduction Act compliance management software has scored a new partner.

    Empact Technologies announced a multi-year agreement with Ampliform, which originates, builds, develops, and operates utility-scale solar and solar plus storage projects. The Empact platform uses a combination of software and services to ensure projects meet IRS regulatory requirements, which focus on wage and apprenticeship, domestic content, and energy and low-income community incentives. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed

    Empact will partner specifically with Ampliform’s project Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms, subcontractors, and key suppliers of steel and iron products. In addition, they will work through a project’s life cycle for EPC’s solar modules, trackers, and inverters to manage prevailing wage & apprenticeship, domestic content, and other tax incentive qualification and compliance.

    “The team at Ampliform had the leadership and foresight to recognize the significant risks of IRA non-compliance and the need to have third party compliance management in place prior to construction kick-off," Charles Dauber, CEO and founder of Empact, says in a news release. We look forward to helping Ampliform fully leverage the IRA tax incentives to develop and build their project development pipeline.”

    Ampliform has approximately 700MW of projects in short-term development. Ampliform also plans 3GW of projects in its development pipeline. Ampliform’s future expansion plans exceed more than 13GWdc in total. Empact will manage the IRA compliance for these projects. According to a Goldman Sachs report, the IRA is estimated to provide $1.2 trillion of incentives by 2032.

    Guest column: Cold weather and electric vehicles — separating fact from fiction

    EVs in winter

    Winter range loss is fueling this season’s heated debate around the viability of electric vehicles, but some important context is needed. Gasoline cars, just like their electric counterparts, lose a significant amount of range in cold weather too.

    According to the Department of Energy, the average internal combustion engine’s fuel economy is 15 percent lower at 20° Fahrenheit than it would be at 77° Fahrenheit, and can drop as much as 24 percent for short drives.

    As the world grapples with the implications of climate change and shifts toward sustainable technologies, it's important to put the pros and cons of EVs and traditional gas vehicles in perspective. And while Houston isn't known as the coldest of climates, you still might want to review this information.

    The Semantics of Energy Consumption Hide the Real Issue: Cost

    First, let's talk about the language. When discussing gas vehicles in cold climates, the conversation often centers around "fuel efficiency." It sounds less threatening, doesn't it? But in reality, this is just a euphemism for range loss, something for which EVs are frequently criticized.

    Why does that matter? Because for most drivers who travel less than 40 miles a day, what range loss really means is higher fueling costs. When a gas vehicle loses range, it costs a lot more than the same range loss in an EV. For example, at $3.50 a gallon, a car that gets 30 MPG in warm weather and costs $46.67 to go 400 miles suddenly costs $8.24 more to drive the same distance. By contrast, an EV plugging in at $0.13 per kWh usually costs $13 to go 400 miles and bumps up to a piddly $16.25 even if it loses 20 percent efficiency when the temperature drops.

    Some EV models lose 40 percent in extreme cold. OK, tack on another $3. That still leaves almost $30 in the driver’s pocket. Over the course of a year, those savings pile up.

    Let’s Call It What It Is: Fear Mongering

    Any seismic shift in technology comes with consumer hesitancy and media skepticism. Remember when everyone was afraid to stand in front of microwaves and thought the waves would make the food unsafe to eat? Or how, just a decade or so back everyone was talking about how cell phones could spontaneously explode?

    Fear of new technology is a natural psychological response and to be expected. But it takes the media machine to turn consumer hesitation into a frenzy. Any way you slice it, 2023 was one big platform for expressing fears around EVs. Headline-grabbing tales of EV woes often lacked context or understanding of the technology. In a highly partisan landscape where EVs have been dubbed liberal leftist technology, what should be seen as a miraculous pro-American, pro-clean-air, pro-energy independence, pro-cost saving advancement is getting a beating in the press. In this environment, every bit of “bad EV news” spirals out into an echo-chamber of confirmation bias.

    For example, Tesla’s recent software update was hyped as a 2 million vehicle “recall” even though the software was updated over the air without a single car needing to leave the driveway. Hertz's recent decision to reduce its Tesla fleet was seen by many as a referendum on the cars’ quality but was actually a decision based on Hertz’s miscalculations around repair costs and a mismatch in their projections of consumer demand for EV rentals.

    While the cost of repairs might be higher, maintenance and fuel costs are still much lower than gas vehicles. EVs are better daily-use cars than rentals because while our country’s public charging infrastructure is still lagging, home charging is a huge benefit of EV ownership. Instead, the Hertz move and the negative coverage are further spooking the public.

    The Truth About EVs

    Despite the challenges, it's crucial to acknowledge the environmental advantages of EVs. For instance, EVs produce zero direct emissions, which significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EVs are far more energy efficient than gas-powered cars, converting more than 77 percent of electrical energy from the grid to power, compared to 12-30 percent for gasoline vehicles.

    This efficiency translates to a cleaner, more sustainable mode of transportation. And stories of EVs stranded in Chicago aside, generally they perform well in cold weather, as clearly demonstrated in Norway. In Norway, the average temperature hovers a solid 10 degrees lower than in the U.S. Yet 93 percent of new cars sold there are electric. The first-ever drive from the north to the south pole was also completed by an electric vehicle. The success story of EVs in Norway and demonstration projects in harsh winter climates serve as a powerful counterargument to the notion that EVs are ineffective in cold weather.

    So where does this leave us? The discourse around EVs and gasoline vehicles in cold weather needs a more balanced and factual approach. The range loss in gasoline vehicles is a significant issue that mirrors the challenges faced by EVs. By acknowledging this and understanding the broader context, we can have a more informed and equitable discussion about the future of automotive technology and its impact on our environment.

    ---

    Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.