Governor Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. Photo via X/Governor Abbott

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

It will take days to recover from Hurricane Beryl. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Houston residents face high temperatures after storm Beryl leaves millions without power

lights out

The return of searing heat in the Houston area has deepened the misery for people still without power after Hurricane Beryl left residents in search of places to cool off and fuel up as the extended outages strained one of the nation’s largest cities.

More than 1.7 million homes and businesses in Texas lacked electricity Wednesday morning, down from a peak of over 2.7 million on Monday, according to PowerOutage.us. State officials faced questions over whether the power utility that covers much of the area had sufficiently prepared.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that a sports and event complex would be used to temporarily hold up to 250 hospital patients who are awaiting discharge but cannot be released to homes with no power.

Beryl, which made landfall in Texas early Monday as a Category 1 hurricane, has been blamed for at least seven U.S. deaths — one in Louisiana and six in Texas — and at least 11 in the Caribbean. It weakened as it moved deeper into the U.S. and early Wednesday was a post-tropical cyclone centered over northeastern Indiana.

A flood watch was in effect for parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The storm spawned suspected tornadoes in parts of Indiana and Kentucky.

In the Houston area, Beryl compounded and repeated the misery of May, when storms killed eight people and left nearly 1 million without power.

High temperatures Tuesday climbed into the 90s (above 32.2 Celsius) with humidity that made it feel even hotter. Similar heat and humidity were expected Wednesday. The National Weather Service described the conditions as potentially dangerous, given the lack of power and air conditioning.

People coped as best they could. Kyuta Allen took her family to a Houston community center to cool down and use the internet.

“During the day you can have the doors open, but at night you’ve got to board up and lock up — lock yourself like into a sauna,” she said.

An executive for CenterPoint Energy, which covers much of the Houston area, defended the utility’s preparation and response.

“From my perspective, to have a storm pass at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, have those crews come in in the late evening, and have everything ready by 5 a.m. to go out and get out and start the workforce is rather impressive, because we’re talking about thousands of crews,” said Brad Tutunjian, vice president of regulatory policy.

Nim Kidd, head of the state’s division of emergency management, stressed that restoring power was the top priority.

Patrick, who is acting as governor while Gov. Greg Abbott is overseas, said nursing homes and assisted living centers were the highest priority. Sixteen hospitals ran on generator power Tuesday morning, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Texas leaders discussed the opportunity for nuclear energy. Photo via htxenergytransition.org

5 reasons Texas energy leaders are excited about sustainable nuclear energy

the view from heti

The University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering hosted an event on August 16th called Advanced Nuclear Technology in Texas, where Dow and X-Energy CEOs joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott for a discussion about why the Texas Gulf Coast is quickly becoming the epicenter for nuclear with the recent announcement about Dow and X-Energy. Dow and X-energy are combining efforts to deploy the first advanced small modular nuclear reactor at industrial site under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

“Texas is the energy capital of the world, but more important is what we are doing with that energy and what it means for our future in the state of Texas,” said Abbott. “Very important to our state is how we use energy to generate power for our grid. For a state that continues to grow massively, we are at the height of our production during the day, and we generate more power than California and New York combined. But we need more dispatchable power generation. One thing we are looking at with a keen eye is the ability to expand our capabilities with regard to nuclear generated power.”

The Governor announced a directive to the Public Utilities Commission of Texas to formulate a workgroup that will make recommendations that aim to propel Texas as a national leader in advanced nuclear energy.

According to the directive, to maximize power grid reliability, the group will work to understand Texas’s role in deploying and using advanced reactors, consider potential financial incentives available, determine nuclear-specific changes needed in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market, identify any federal or state regulatory hurdles to development, and analyze how Texas can streamline and speed up advanced reactor construction permitting.

Below are five key takeaways about the project and why energy experts are excited about advanced nuclear energy:

  • Advanced SMR Nuclear Project for Carbon-Free Energy: Dow, a global materials science leader, has partnered with X-energy to establish an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear project at its Seadrift Operations site in Texas. The project aims to provide safe, reliable, and zero carbon emissions power and steam to replace aging energy assets.
  • Decarbonization and Emission Reduction: This collaboration is set to significantly reduce the Seadrift site’s emissions by approximately 440,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year. By adopting advanced nuclear technology, Dow is making a notable contribution to decarbonizing its manufacturing processes and improving environmental sustainability.
  • Grid Stability and Reliability: The advanced nuclear technology offers enhanced power and steam reliability, ensuring a stable energy supply for Dow’s Seadrift site. This is crucial for maintaining uninterrupted manufacturing operations and contributing to overall electric grid stability.
  • Texas Gulf Coast Energy Hub: Texas, as the energy capital of the world, has been chosen as the location for this groundbreaking project. This selection underscores Texas’ exceptional business climate, innovation history, and commitment to leading the energy transition. The project builds upon Texas’ position as a global energy leader.
  • Economic Growth and Job Opportunities: The SMR nuclear project promises to bring economic growth to the Texas Gulf Coast. It is expected to create new jobs, provide economic opportunities, and strengthen the local economy. By embracing innovative and sustainable energy solutions, Dow and X-energy are driving both industrial advancement and community prosperity.
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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.

Jeff Hildebrand will lead the organization that protects and conserves Texas parks. Photo via texasbusiness.org

Houston energy exec to chair Texas parks board

conservation leader

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, or TPWC has named its newest chair, and the job went to a Houston energy executive.

Governor Greg Abbott named billionaire Jeff Hildebrand as chair of the Parks And Wildlife Commission, effective August 31. The organization "manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas and provides hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations," according to a news release from the state. In the announcement, William “Leslie” Doggett was also named to the commission.

Hildebrand replaces Arch "Beaver" Aplin, the CEO of Buc-ee’s, who served as the chair for the past two years.

“I thank (Aplin) for faithfully serving his fellow Texans to preserve the beautiful Texas landscape that spurs our booming tourism industry and protects our state's rich history," says Governor Abbott in the release. "Jeff Hildebrand and William Doggett both bring unique experiences to the Commission and will help ensure that Texans, and out-of-state visitors alike, continue to enjoy Texas’ outdoors and recreational activities for generations to come.”

Hildebrand, the richest person in Houston with a net worth at $10.2 billion according to Forbes, is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Company, a privately held energy exploration and production company. He also serves as a director for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Central Houston Civil Improvement, and Central Houston Inc. A University of Texas alumnus, he was formerly the chairman of The University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Company and served as the gubernatorial appointed vice chair for the UT System Board of Regents, among other roles.

Doggett, another Houston executive, is the executive chairman and founder of the Doggett Equipment Services Group and the Doggett Auto Group, which has 47 dealerships throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico. He's also a UT alumnus and a member of the World Presidents Organization, and a trustee of the Houston Methodist Research & Academic Institute, The Kinkaid School, San Jacinto Monument and Texas History Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston – Rienzi.

This year marks the centennial celebration for the organization, which is led by the commission. Governor Pat Neff worked with Texas leaders to create the State Parks Board in 1923 to create a place where Texans “might go and forget the anxiety and strife and vexation of life's daily grind,” per the website.

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Things to know: Beryl in the rearview, Devon Energy's big deal, and events not to miss

taking notes

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition.

Hurricane Beryl's big impact

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Houston area likely won’t have power restored until this week, as the city swelters in the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl.

The storm slammed into Texas on July 8, knocking out power to nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses and leaving huge swaths of the region in the dark and without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Although repairs have restored power to nearly 1.4 million customers, the scale of the damage and slow pace of recovery has put CenterPoint Energy, which provides electricity to the nation's fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm and is doing enough now to make things right.

Some frustrated residents have also questioned why a part of the country that is all too familiar with major storms has been hobbled by a Category 1 hurricane, which is the weakest kind. But a storm's wind speed, alone, doesn't determine how dangerous it can be. Click here to continue reading this article from the AP.

Big deal: Devon Energy to acquire Houston exploration, production biz in $5B deal

Devon Energy is buying Grayson Mill Energy's Williston Basin business in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5 billion as consolidation in the oil and gas sector ramps up.

The transaction includes $3.25 billion in cash and $1.75 billion in stock.

Grayson Mill Energy, based in Houston, is an oil and gas exploration company that received an initial investment from private equity firm EnCap Investments in 2016.

The firm appears to be stepping back from energy sector as it sells off assets. Last month EnCap-backed XCL Resources sold its Uinta Basin oil and gas assets to SM Energy Co. and Northern Oil and Gas in a transaction totaling $2.55 billion. EnCap had another deal in June as well, selling some assets to Matador Resources for nearly $2 billion. Click here to continue reading.

Events not to miss

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

  • 2024 Young Leaders Institute: Renewable Energy and Climate Solutions is taking place July 15 to July 19 at Asia Society of Texas. Register now.
  • CCS/Decarbonization Project Development, Finance and Investment, taking place July 23 to 25, is the deepest dive into the economic and regulatory factors driving the success of the CCS/CCUS project development landscape. Register now.
  • The 5th Texas Energy Forum 2024, organized by U.S. Energy Stream, will take place on August 21 and 22 at the Petroleum Club of Houston. Register now.

Growing Houston biotech company expands leadership as it commercializes sustainable products

onboarding

Houston-based biotech company Cemvita recently tapped two executives to help commercialize its sustainable fuel made from carbon waste.

Nádia Skorupa Parachin came aboard as vice president of industrial biotechnology, and Phil Garcia was promoted to vice president of commercialization.

Parachin most recently oversaw several projects at Boston-based biotech company Ginkjo Bioworks. She previously co-founded Brazilian biotech startup Integra Bioprocessos.

Parachin will lead the Cemvita team that’s developing technology for production of bio-manufactured oil.

“It’s a fantastic moment, as we’re poised to take our prototyping to the next level, and all under the innovative direction of our co-founder Tara Karimi,” Parachin says in a news release. “We will be bringing something truly remarkable to market and ensuring it’s cost-effective.”

Moji Karimi, co-founder and CEO of Cemvita, says the hiring of Parachin represents “the natural next step” toward commercializing the startup’s carbon-to-oil process.

“Her background prepared her to bring the best out of the scientists at the inflection point of commercialization — really bringing things to life,” says Moji Karimi, Tara’s brother.

Parachin joins Garcia on Cemvita’s executive team.

Before being promoted to vice president of commercialization, Garcia was the startup’s commercial director and business development manager. He has a background in engineering and business development.

Founded in 2017, Cemvita recently announced a breakthrough that enables production of large quantities of oil derived from carbon waste.

In 2023, United Airlines agreed to buy up to one billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel from Cemvita’s first full-scale plant over the course of 20 years.

Cemvita’s investors include the UAV Sustainable Flight Fund, an investment arm of Chicago-based United; Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based energy company Occidental Petroleum; and Japanese equipment and machinery manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

New talent-packed TV show taps into Texas oil boom history

spotlight on TX

A new television show that's slated to premiere this fall will put Texas' oil boom on center stage.

Taylor Sheridan's buzzy new Texas-based series Landman will premiere Sunday, November 17, on Paramount+, the network revealed. That's just one week after the November 10 debut of the final episodes of Sheridan's Yellowstone on Paramount.

Landmanwill launch with two episodes, with subsequent ones dropping weekly on Sundays, a news release says. In total, the first season will be 10 episodes long. The series is based on Texas Monthly's acclaimed podcast Boomtown by West Texas-raised journalist Christian Wallace, which aired from late 2019 to early 2020. Wallace is serving as a consultant and writer on the series.

"Set in the proverbial boomtowns of West Texas, Landman is a modern-day tale of fortune seeking in the world of oil rigs," the show's release says. "Based on the notable 11-part podcast Boomtown, the series is an upstairs/downstairs story of roughnecks and wildcat billionaires fueling a boom so big, it’s reshaping our climate, our economy and our geopolitics."

Landman, Paramount+'Landman' stars Billy Bob Thornton. Photo courtesy of Paramount+

The series stars Billy Bob Thornton as the titular "land man" Tommy Norris, a crisis manager for an oil company.

He leads an all-star cast that includes Demi Moore as Cami Miller and Jon Hamm in a recurring guest role as her husband, Texas oil titan Monty Miller. Ali Larter plays Thornton's wife, Angela Norris; their two kids are portrayed by Michelle Randolph (1923) and Jacob Lofland (Joker 2).

Landman, Jon Hamm, Demi MooreJon Hamm stars as Texas oil titan Monty Miller, and Demi Moore plays his wife, Cami.Photo courtesy of Paramount+

Other stars include James Jordan (Yellowstone), Kayla Wallace (When Calls the Heart), Mark Collie (Nashville), and Paulina Chávez (The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia); Andy Garcia (Expendables franchise) and Michael Peña (End of Watch)will make guest appearances.

Sheridan is creator and executive co-producer, and the show is produced by MTV Entertainment Studios, 101 Studios, and Sheridan’s Bosque Ranch Productions. Its release comes sooner than expected; even the show's IMDB page says "2025."

Although it's set in West Texas,Landman has been filming around Dallas-Fort Worth since early 2024, with the show's stars frequenting restaurants and shops around town. Fans have been making a sport of posting local star sightings on social media.

Some lucky residents even got to be extras in sports scenes shot at TCU.

Unlike 1883, which was filmed in and around North Texas in 2021, Landman is not considered a Yellowstone spinoff.

Filming around Dallas-Fort Worth is convenient for Sheridan, who lives on a ranch near Weatherford with his wife, Nicole. He also filmed parts of his series Lawmen: Bass Reeves in North Texas in 2023.

A Texas cowboy through and through, Sheridan is the creator of the award-winning series Yellowstone, its prequels 1883 and 1923, and a forthcoming one reportedly called 1944, starring fellow Texan Matthew McConaughey.

The only question left is: Will Texas get to host the big Landman red-carpet premiere, as Fort Worth did for the Yellowstone Season 5 premiere in November 2022? Stay tuned.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.