Bobby Tudor has joined the board of an energy tech company. Photo via Houston.org

A Houston business leader has taken a seat at the table of a San Francisco-based tech company.

Puloli, an IoT solutions-as-a-service company has announced an investment from, Artemis Energy Partners, a Houston group founded by Bobby Tudor. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

With the transaction, Tudor joins Puloli's board of directors, bringing expertise from a storied career in energy transition from his roles at Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. and the Greater Houston Partnership.

"Bobby brings a tremendous amount of credibility and energy industry insight to Puloli and complements what Jodi Jahic and Aligned Partners bring to Puloli," Kethees Ketheesan, CEO of Puloli, says in a news release. "Bobby's endorsement of Puloli solution will be a big boost in accelerating our growth."

The investment from Artemis Energy Partners will be used to support research and development, operations, and more at Puloli, which recently launched a continuous methane monitoring service for energy producers. The funding will also support this new technology, called the Paradigm M-Series, as it rolls out across North America.

"I'm very pleased and excited to be a part of the Puloli team," Tudor says in the release. "The energy industry is hungry for solutions I'm confident Puloli can provide. Kethees and his team are poised to become a leader in the methane detection and measurement space, and I look forward to supporting that growth opportunity."

Tudor was the 2020 chair of the GHP and currently serves as the chairman of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, or HETI. He founded Artemis Energy Partners in 2017 after his firm TPH merged with Perella Weinberg Partners in 2016.

Steve Kean will transition from leading Kinder Morgan to assuming the role of president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership later this year. Photo courtesy of the GHP

Energy exec to take the reins of the Greater Houston Partnership

coming soon

A longtime energy executive has been named the next president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. He'll take on the new role this fall.

The GHP named Steve Kean, who currently serves as the CEO of Kinder Morgan Inc., to the position. He's expected to transition from CEO to board of directors member at Kinder Morgan on August 1. Kean will then assume his new position at GHP no later than Dec. 1.

Dr. Marc L. Boom, GHP board chair and president and CEO of Houston Methodist, made the announcement at a press conference June 21.

“Steve brings incredible business acumen and leadership skills to the organization," Boom says in a statement. "Coupled with an extraordinary passion for Houston, he will build on the Partnership’s momentum to continue to advance greater Houston as a region of extraordinary growth and opportunity.”

The GHP's outgoing president and CEO, Bob Harvey, announced his retirement earlier this year, and will remain in his position until Kean is onboarded. Kean was selected via a search committee established by 2022 board chair, Thad Hill. The committee was chaired by Marc Watts and included Boom, Thad Hill, Paul Hobby, Gina Luna, Eric Mullins, Armando Perez, and Ruth Simmons. The process, which looked at over 70 highly-qualified Houston leaders, also included the services of Spencer Stuart to manage the search.

“This last decade has been a dynamic time for Houston and the Partnership," Harvey says in a statement. "As a life-long Houstonian, it has been an honor to focus my efforts on supporting Houston’s continued growth and working with the business community to create opportunities for all Houstonians. This is an exciting time for Houston. I am very pleased that Steve is enthusiastic about leading the Partnership, and I look forward to the organization’s continued success under his leadership.”

With decades in the energy industry, Kean joined Kinder Morgan in 2002 and has served as COO, president of Natural Gas Pipelines, and president of Kinder Morgan Inc. before rising to CEO. He received a bachelor's degree from Iowa State University and his law degree from the University of Iowa.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve our region in this role," he says. "I look forward to building on what Bob, the Board, members, and staff of the Partnership have accomplished. I know first-hand the opportunities that a vibrant business sector can create for people and communities. I look forward to expanding those opportunities further.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston is in the running to receive millions from a program from the National Science Foundation. Photo via Getty Images

Houston named semifinalist for major NSF energy transition funding opportunity

ON TO THE NEXT ROUND

The National Science Foundation announced 34 semifinalists for a regional innovation program that will deploy up to $160 million in federal funding over the next 10 years. Among the list of potential regions to receive this influx of capital is Houston.

The Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Energy Transition Initiative developed the application for the NSF Regional Innovation Engine competition in collaboration with economic, civic, and educational leaders from across the city and five regional universities, including the University of Houston, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Southern University, Rice University, and Texas A&M University.

The proposed project for Houston — called the Accelerating Carbon-Neutral Technologies and Policies for Energy Transition, or ACT, Engine — emphasizes developing sustainable and equitable opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs while also pursuing sustainable and equitable energy access for all.

“The ACT Engine will leverage our diverse energy innovation ecosystem and talent, creating a true competitive advantage for existing and new energy companies across our region," says Jane Stricker, senior vice president of energy transition and executive director for HETI, in a statement. "Texas is leading the way in nearly every energy and energy transition solution, and this Engine can catalyze our region’s continued growth in low-carbon technology development and deployment."

If Houston's proposal is selected as a finalist, it could receive up to $160 million over 10 years. The final list of NSF Engines awards is expected this fall, and, according to a release, each awardee will initially receiving about $15 million for the first two years.

"Each of these NSF Engines semifinalists represents an emerging hub of innovation and lends their talents and resources to form the fabric of NSF's vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere," NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan says in a news release. "These teams will spring ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation."

The NSF selected its 34 semifinalists from 188 original applicants, and the next step for Houston is a virtual site visit that will assess competitive advantages, budget and resource plans for R&D and workforce development, and the proposed leadership’s ability to mobilize plans into action over the first two years.

"Houston is poised, like no other city, to lead the energy transition. The ACT Engine presents a remarkable opportunity to not only leverage the region's unparalleled energy resources and expertise but also harness our can-do spirit. Houston has a proven track record of embracing challenges and finding innovative solutions,” says Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston, in the statement. “Through the collaborative efforts facilitated by the ACT Engine, I am confident that we can make significant strides towards creating a sustainable future that harmonizes economic growth, environmental protection and social equity."

NSF Engines will announce awards this fall after a round of in-person interviews of finalists named in July. With Houston's track record for building thriving industry hubs in energy, health care, aerospace, and the culinary arts, the region is eager to establish the next generation of leaders and dreamers responding to some of the greatest economic and societal challenges ever seen in America.

“Our energy innovation ecosystem is inclusive, dynamic, and fast growing," says Barbara Burger, energy transition adviser and former Chevron executive, in the release. "The ACT Engine has the potential to increase the amount of innovation coming into the ecosystem and the capabilities available to scale technologies needed in the energy transition. I am confident that the members of the ecosystem — incubators, accelerators, investors, universities, and corporates — are ready for the challenge that the ACT Engine will provide."

According to a new report, Houston is one of the top cities for funding for sustainability companies. Photo via Getty Images

Houston ranked a top market for attracting funding for sustainability-focused startups

by the numbers

From a financial standpoint, Houston appears to be a sustainable environment for sustainability-focused startups.

An analysis by PromoLeaf, a retailer of sustainable promotional products, that came out at the end of last year ranks Houston fourth among U.S. cities for the average funding raised by locally based startups in the sustainability sector, according to Crunchbase data.

Per the report, the Bayou City attracts $150.7 million in sustainability funding for startups. Ahead of Houston are Salt Lake City with $204.5 million; Santa Monica, California, with $154.3 million; and Fremont, California, with $153.4 million.

PromoLeaf’s analysis features cities where at least 20 companies are focused on sustainability.

The analysis indicates Houston has 20.6 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents. Ranking first in that regard is Boulder, Colorado (115 per 100,000 residents).

While Houston trails Boulder by a long distance, it fares well among the Texas cities in the analysis:

  1. Austin, 26.2 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  2. Houston, 20.6 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  3. Midland, 18.8 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  4. Plano, 11.9 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  5. Dallas, 11 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  6. Fort Worth, 5.3 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents
  7. San Antonio, 5.2 sustainability startups per 100,000 residents

PromoLeaf says more than 21,600 sustainability startups operate in the U.S. They’re in the renewable energy, recycling and pollution control, environmental engineering, green consumer goods, and environmental consulting industries.

The analysis shows Houston has:

  • 13.7 renewable energy startups per 100,000 residents
  • 5.8 recycling and pollution control startups per 100,000 residents
  • 3.5 environmental engineering startups per 100,000 residents
  • 2.9 environmental consulting startups per 100,000 residents
  • 0.70 green consumer goods startups per 100,000 residents

According to the Greater Houston Partnership, renewable energy startups leading Houston’s energy transformation include Energy Transition Ventures, Fysikes Biosolutions, Ionada, Katz Water Technologies, Pressure Corp., and Renewell Energy.

“A dynamic business climate combined with growth in venture capital funding in Houston has created fertile ground for companies of all stages aiming to power our world through the global energy transition,” the partnership says. “As the Energy Capital of the World, Houston has become a hub for startups and venture capital firms investing in the region’s energy future.”

Outside the energy sector, Houston startups like Trendy Seconds also are making their mark in sustainability. The company runs an online marketplace where women can find preowned clothing or shop for new clothing from sustainable brands.

“Our ultimate goal is to make responsible consumption super easy,” Maria Burgos, founder of Trendy Seconds, told InnovationMap last year.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Texas-based Tesla gets China's initial approval of self-driving software

global greenlight

Shares of Tesla stock rallied Monday after the electric vehicle maker's CEO, Elon Musk, paid a surprise visit to Beijing over the weekend and reportedly won tentative approval for its driving software.

Musk met with a senior government official in the Chinese capital Sunday, just as the nation’s carmakers are showing off their latest electric vehicle models at the Beijing auto show.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Chinese officials told Tesla that Beijing has tentatively approved the automaker's plan to launch its “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD, software feature in the country.

Although it's called FSD, the software still requires human supervision. On Friday the U.S. government’s auto safety agency said it is investigating whether last year’s recall of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system did enough to make sure drivers pay attention to the road. Tesla has reported 20 more crashes involving Autopilot since the recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In afternoon trading, shares in Tesla Inc., which is based in Austin, Texas, surged to end Monday up more than 15% — its biggest one-day jump since February 2020. For the year to date, shares are still down 22%.

Tesla has been contending with its stock slide and slowing production. Last week, the company said its first-quarter net income plunged by more than half, but it touted a newer, cheaper car and a fully autonomous robotaxi as catalysts for future growth.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the news about the Chinese approval a “home run” for Tesla and maintained his “Outperform” rating on the stock.

“We note Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai since 2021 as required by regulators in Beijing,” Ives wrote in a note to investors. “If Musk is able to obtain approval from Beijing to transfer data collected in China abroad this would be pivotal around the acceleration of training its algorithms for its autonomous technology globally.”

Houston organization celebrates zero waste goal

earth day win

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day

Texas hydrogen research hub opens to support statewide, DOE-backed initiative

hi to hydrogen

A Texas school has cut the ribbon on a new hydrogen-focused research facility that will play a role in a statewide, Department of Energy-funded energy transition initiative.

The Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas, Frontier Energy, Inc., and GTI Energy celebrated the grand opening of a hydrogen research and demonstration facility in Austin as part of the “Demonstration and Framework for H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond” project, which is supported by the DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

The hydrogen proto-hub is first-of-its-kind and part of Texas-wide initiative for a cleaner hydrogen economy and will feature contributions from organizations throughout the state. The facility will generate zero-carbon hydrogen by using water electrolysis powered by solar and wind energy, and steam methane reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill.

The hydrogen will be used to power a stationary fuel cell for power for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and it will also supply zero-emission fuel to cell drones and a fleet of Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles. This method will mark the first time that multiple renewable hydrogen supplies and uses have been networked at one location to show an economical hydrogen ecosystem that is scalable.

“The H2@Scale in Texas project builds on nearly two decades of UT leadership in hydrogen research and development” Michael Lewis, Research Scientist, UT Austin Center for Electromechanics, say in a news release. “With this facility, we aim to provide the educated workforce and the engineering data needed for success. Beyond the current project, the hydrogen research facility is well-positioned for growth and impact in the emerging clean hydrogen industry.”

Over 20 sponsors and industry stakeholders are involved and include Houston-based partners in Center for Houston’s Future and Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy. Industry heavyweights like Chevron, Toyota, ConocoPhillips, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are also part of the effort.

Texas hydrogen infrastructure and wind and solar resources position the state for clean hydrogen production, as evident in the recently released study, “A Framework for Hydrogen in Texas.” The study was part of a larger effort that started in 2020 with the H2@Scale project, which aims to develop clearer paths to renewable hydrogen as a “clean and cost-effective fuel” according to a news release. The facility will serve as an academic research center, and a model for future large-scale hydrogen deployments.

Participants in the DOE-funded HyVelocity Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub will aim to gain insights from the H2@Scale project at UT Austin. The project will build towards a development of a comprehensive hydrogen network across the region. HyVelocity is a hub that includes AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Orsted, and Sempra Infrastructure. The GTI Energy administered HyVelocity involves The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Houston’s Future, and Houston Advanced Research Center.

“H2@Scale isn't just about producing low-carbon energy, it's about creating clean energy growth opportunities for communities throughout Texas and the nation,” Adam Walburger, president of Frontier Energy, says in a news release. “By harnessing renewable energy resources to create zero-carbon hydrogen, we can power homes, businesses, transportation, and agriculture – all while creating jobs and reducing emissions.”