The HyVelocity Hub, representing the Gulf Coast region, will receive $1.2 billion to strengthen and further build out the region's hydrogen production. Photo via Getty Images

Not only has a Houston-area project been announced as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to advance domestic hydrogen production — but the Bayou City is getting one of the largest pieces of the pie.

President Biden and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm named the seven regions to receive funding in a White House statement today. The Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, will receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will receive, per the release.

“As I’ve stated repeatedly over the past years, we are uniquely positioned to lead a transformational clean hydrogen hub that will deliver economic growth and good jobs, including in historically underserved communities," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. "HyVelocity will also help scale up national and world clean hydrogen economies, resulting in significant decarbonization gains. I’d also like to thank all the partners who came together to create HyVelocity Hub in a true spirit of public-private collaboration.”

Backed by industry partners AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Ørsted, and Sempra Infrastructure, the HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub will connect more than 1,000 miles of hydrogen pipelines, 48 hydrogen production facilities, and dozens of hydrogen end-use applications across Texas and Southwest Louisiana. The hub is planning for large-scale hydrogen production through both natural gas with carbon capture and renewables-powered electrolysis.

The project is spearheaded by GTI Energy and other organizing participants, including the University of Texas at Austin, The Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Advanced Research Center, and around 90 other supporting partners from academia, industry, government, and beyond.

“Prioritizing strong community engagement and demonstrating an innovation ecosystem, the HyVelocity Hub will improve local air quality and create equitable access to clean, reliable, affordable energy for communities across the Gulf Coast region,” says Paula A. Gant, president and CEO of GTI Energy, in a news release.

According to the White House's announcement, the hub will create 45,000 direct jobs — 35,000 in construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. The other selected hubs — and the impact they are expected to have, include:

  • Tied with HyVelocity in terms of funding amount, the California Hydrogen Hub — Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) — will also receive up to $1.2 billion to create 220,000 direct jobs—130,000 in construction jobs and 90,000 permanent jobs. The project is expected to target decarbonizing public transportation, heavy duty trucking, and port operations.
  • The Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen (MachH2), spanning Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, will receive up to $1 billion. This region's efforts will be directed at optimizing hydrogen use in steel and glass production, power generation, refining, heavy-duty transportation, and sustainable aviation fuel. It's expected to create 13,600 direct jobs—12,100 in construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs.
  • Receiving up to $1 billion and targeting Washington, Oregon, and Montana, the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Hub — named PNW H2— will produce clean hydrogen from renewable sources and will create over 10,000 direct jobs—8,050 in construction jobs and 350 permanent jobs.
  • The Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), which will be located in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, will tap into existing infrastructure to use low-cost natural gas to produce low-cost clean hydrogen and permanently and safely store the associated carbon emissions. The project, which will receive up to $925 million, will create 21,000 direct jobs—including more than 18,000 in construction and more than 3,000 permanent jobs.
  • Spanning Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the Heartland Hydrogen Hub will receive up to $925 million and create around 3,880 direct jobs–3,067 in construction jobs and 703 permanent jobs — to decarbonize the agricultural sector’s production of fertilizer, decrease the regional cost of clean hydrogen, and advance hydrogen use in electric generation and for cold climate space heating.
  • Lastly, the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), which will include Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, hopes to repurposing historic oil infrastructure to develop renewable hydrogen production facilities from renewable and nuclear electricity. The hub, which will receive up to $750 million, anticipates creating 20,800 direct jobs—14,400 in construction jobs and 6,400 permanent jobs.

These seven clean hydrogen hubs are expected to catalyze more than $40 billion in private investment, per the White house, and bring the total public and private investment in hydrogen hubs to nearly $50 billion. Collectively, they aim to produce more than three million metric tons of clean hydrogen annually — which reaches nearly one third of the 2030 U.S. clean hydrogen production goal. Additionally, the hubs will eliminate 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from end uses each year. That's roughly equivalent to annual emissions of over 5.5 million gasoline-powered cars.

“Unlocking the full potential of hydrogen—a versatile fuel that can be made from almost any energy resource in virtually every part of the country—is crucial to achieving President Biden’s goal of American industry powered by American clean energy, ensuring less volatility and more affordable clean energy options for American families and businesses,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm says in the release. “With this historic investment, the Biden-Harris Administration is laying the foundation for a new, American-led industry that will propel the global clean energy transition while creating high quality jobs and delivering healthier communities in every pocket of the nation.”

HyVelocity has been a vision amongst Houston energy leaders for over a year, announcing its bid for regional hydrogen hub funding last November. Another Houston-based clean energy project was recently named a semi-finalist for National Science Foundation funding.

“We are excited to get to work making HyVelocity come to life,” Brett Perlman, president and CEO of Center for Houston’s Future, says in the release. “We look forward to spurring economic growth and development, creating jobs, and reducing emissions in ways that will benefit local communities and the Gulf Coast region as a whole. HyVelocity will be a model for creating a clean hydrogen ecosystem in an inclusive and equitable manner.”

When examining how you can better prepare and respond to ongoing climate-related challenges, the CRE community needs to prioritize marginalized communities that are already experiencing most of the negative impacts. Photography by Peter Molick

Experts: How to better prepare Houston to combat climate related challenges

guest column

Houston is no stranger to hurricanes, and in recent years winter storms have become an increasing concern. Following the winter freeze in 2021, more than 4 million Texans were left without power, water, or heat. The state’s infrastructure system was adversely impacted concurrently — including workplaces, hospitals, transportation, homes, drinking water distribution, electric power generation, agriculture, and grocery stores. Now, a new potential disaster is on the horizon. Recent research shows Houston is most likely to be affected by wildfires, a climate-related challenge that our city has not previously faced.

According to the Gensler Research Institute’s 2022 U.S. Climate Action Survey, since 2019, only 18 percent of Americans believe their communities are built to withstand climate change. The good news is Americans overwhelmingly agree that addressing climate change is urgent. The question many are asking is — “How can we take action to better prepare buildings and cities to weather the climate challenge?” The solution is simple. In order to understand where we need to go, we must understand how we got here.

With a population that has more than doubled in the past 50 years, it is challenging for most Houstonians to imagine a time when The Bayou City was nothing more than agricultural lands and oil fields. Today, Houston is known for being the fourth-most populous city in the United States. It is a sprawling concrete jungle home to the world’s largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions. When reflecting on the past 50 years, one can’t help but evaluate the city’s successes and shortcomings. While Houston has succeeded in becoming a diverse, international city, we have sacrificed the very ecology that once made up one of the country’s most productive agricultural areas. By 1980, Houston possessed the least amount of green space per person in the country.

As new developments popped up across the city, it became difficult to convince developers to pursue third-party certifications such as LEED, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability that provides the framework for designing healthy, efficient, carbon saving buildings. We can credit Hines with being one of the few developers in Houston to prioritize green design during the early-2000s. City leaders also began advocating for resilient strategies and more green space to attract and retain international talent and businesses. In recent years, we have seen an increase in buildings that are achieving LEED certification, and soon it will become the baseline.

The Houston Advanced Research Center, Photography by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography

An example of a project leading the way for resilient design is The Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). In 2017 the organization completed work on its LEED Platinum Certified headquarters which was designed to meet the ENERGY STAR certification rate of 99 (out of 100). This means that the building is more efficient than 99 percent of all office buildings in the United States. Skanska is another construction and development company bringing a sustainable mindset to downtown Houston with its work on Bank of America Tower. In 2019, the 775,000 square foot building became the largest LEED v4 Platinum Core and Shell certified project in the world to date and was developed with harvesting technology that will significantly reduce energy usage.

It’s also important to understand the impact that the climate crisis is having on people. 91 percent of U.S. Gen Z/Millennials have been affected by extreme weather events since 2019, the most of any generation. These experiences have resulted in two generations preparing to react and combat climate change and has encouraged a spirit of transparency among companies who choose to share their environmental goals and strategies.

For architects and designers, addressing building and energy codes is proving to be the next big design consideration. As codes progress in the coming years, the result will be more unique and unexpected building designs.

When reimagining the use of buildings, Architects Paulina Abella and Tayler Trojcak propose an experimental process for repurposing vacant buildings called High Hackers. The concept provides an opportunity for developers to offer prime downtown real estate to people with diverse skill sets, whom they call “hackers,” to pursue projects shaped by their individual ideas. These hackers—makers, artists, and academics—will work alongside one another in spaces that encourage them to coexist with creatives from other fields and disciplines. More importantly, it fosters a collaborative, organic, and innovative workflow.

When examining how you can better prepare and respond to ongoing climate-related challenges, we encourage prioritizing marginalized communities that are already experiencing most of the negative impacts. Promoting awareness and optimism in our communities is another simple yet effective way to make a difference. For businesses, creating a sense of continuity in the face of climate events, investing in energy and resource efficiency and adaptation, and addressing insurability and the long-term value of real estate will ultimately help lead Houston and its community members toward a place of preparedness and resiliency.

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Rives Taylor directs Gensler’s Global Design Resilience teams and initiatives and has been a faculty member of both Rice University and the University of Houston for 30 years. Maria Perez is a design resilience leader for Gensler’s South Central region and director of sustainable design based in Gensler’s Houston office.

This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

How can Houston's energy transition be built with the city's communities in mind? Through trust, public education, and intention, according to a panel of experts. Photo via Getty Images

Why it would be 'potentially catastrophic' not to include communities in the energy transition

overheard

As the energy sector transitions toward a more sustainable future, a Houston organization is driving forward the idea to do so with a community-based approach, as some experts discussed at a recent breakfast panel.

The Center for Houston's Future hosted a breakfast discussion on August 10, entitled "Building a Community-Based Approach to the Energy Transition," sponsored by BP Energy. The conversation covered various ways corporations, organizations, and individuals could work together to build this approach, including through education, upskilling, collaborations, and more.

Photo by Laura Goldberg/Center for Houston's Future on LinkedIn

The event kicked off with a keynote address from Brad Townsend, vice president of policy and outreach at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, who set the scene for the discussion.

“The energy transition offers an opportunity to build a thriving, just, and resilient net-zero economy that can benefit companies and communities alike" he says to the crowd. "It’s the chance to raise jobs standards and safely through local and federal policies, employ a practice change, cross-sector collaboration, and worker training.

“It's also an opportunity to diversify the workforce to better reflect local communities, including in Houston," he continues. "If we approach this engagement however as a box checking exercise or unwilling to really provide communities an opportunity to help shape projects, we’re destined to fail. Being genuinely open to feedback from communities and actively incorporating them into the decision-making process is foundational to generating the community buy-in that will be crucial to a successful energy transition.”

Here were some of the key takeaways from the event.

"When we talk about Houston we need to be cognizant that it is a huge geographical area, and you cannot speak to Houston as a monolith. You can't even speak to individual communities as single entities."

— Anne Bartlett, vice president of industry and community resources at Brazosport College.

"Our responsibility is to recognize and really understand our communities not just from labor market data perspective, but also by having conversations with people who know what’s happening on the ground," she continues. "Our charge is to recognize that yes, this is a regional opportunity but it really does need to be situationalized in our specific communities and recognize the strengths and the opportunities that are present in all of those."

"One of the opportunities and challenges that's part of this massive energy transition, which I think will not only bring about investments of billions of dollars but potentially trillions of dollars, is to utilize these significant investments as an opportunity to not only transform how we make, use, and transport energy, but also uplift these communities that are adjacent to the facilities where hydrogen and other resources will be will be produced."

— John Hall, president and CEO of Houston Advanced Research Center.

"We (need to) use this entire transformational effort to open the doors of opportunity for every community," he adds.

“While it is the right thing to do to bring in the full breath of diversity that we have, it's (also) absolutely necessary.”

— Mark Crawford, senior vice president at BP Energy.

"We're in in Houston. We are the most diverse city in the United States, and the United States is becoming more and more diverse," he explains.

"It is important to bring holistic solutions to communities. ... We can't do everything, but there are organizations working on the ground that are doing really great work. It's about companies going in and partnering with stakeholders on the ground who understand the communities so that we are bringing these wrap-around services."

Crawford continues, noting that it's on companies like BP to tap into and support local entities.

“There's a fundamental shift that needs to happen in the way that we're talking about these jobs to really encourage young people to take advantage of resources that are made available, because we can integrate that into the educational curriculum, but unless students and young people are willing to move in that direction it's not going to make a difference.”

— Townsend says on the panel, addressing the sentiment that young people are told job security comes only with a college degree. The panelists agree this isn't the case anymore, yet that message is still being conveyed.

“I think it's really important to pull back and recognize the opportunity that's in the K-12 space — not only with the children and making sure that they're aware that these careers even exist, but perhaps just as importantly with their parents.” 

Bartlett says, adding that these kids will be the ones in thes jobs in 10 or so years, so that message needs to start being conveyed now.

“All of these things cost money. There are dollars that are out there right now that we are not leveraging — there are dollars that are available through the Texas Workforce Commission, through Chambers of Commerce. So, we're not talking about having to reinvent the wheel and having to go to our industry partners with palms up, we're talking about leveraging the resources that are already out there in a wiser way.”

Bartlett says about the feasibility of workforce development programs.

“It would be unfortunate — (and) it would be potentially catastrophic — if we see the trillions and trillions of dollars invested over the next 20 years, and we have left behind 25 percent or more of citizens.”

Hall says, emphasizing how important working with communities — and hearing their concerns — is to this process.

He later adds that he's worked with community leaders, and he knows they are optimistic — as is he — about this process. “These are not peculiar human beings. They have the same hopes and dreams that we have, and if we will take the step to just reach out and connect and communicate with sincerity, then those barriers are easier to overcome.”

The convergence of green banking with evergreen experimentation in support of a growing green economy sounds like just the right shade of green. Photo by micheile henderson/Unsplash

Green banking meets evergreen R&D with recent MOU

MONEY + MATTER

The term “Energy Transition” doesn’t merely imply change, it demands it. And with change comes another kind of change–usually of the dollars and cents kind.

While many aspire to embrace more sustainable and cleaner energy solutions in their communities, the affluence needed to deploy necessary infrastructure often sits just outside of reach. Until now, that is.

With the rise of “green banking,” securing financing for the adoption of energy efficiency, implementation of decarbonization technologies, and broader provision of renewable energy is now more accessible. Funds at green banks, backed by a blend of public and philanthropic contributions, tap into the modern trend of crowdfunding to support egalitarian and climate improvement efforts.

However, green bank financing is structured with repayment of–or a return on–capital expected at the end of the term, meaning approval tends only to be granted to proven and established projects well past the research and development stage. Given the Energy Transition is, for the most part, still in its infancy, clearing such hurdles can be difficult.

But Houston is full of dreamers and doers; researchers and entrepreneurs eager to tackle the next big challenge. It would come as no surprise then, that Texas’ first green bank, the Clean Energy Fund of Texas (“CEFTx”), bucks tradition with a novel Memorandum Of Understanding (“MOU”) co-signed by the Houston Advanced Research Center (“HARC”) to finance efforts staunchly entrenched in R&D activity.

As the Energy Transition foothold grows, Houstonians are compelled not just to invest in green initiatives, but to drive them. Which only makes sense, considering the deep expertise in energy innovation led most recently by the Houston-area shale revolutionaries from Mitchell Energy. Established over 40 years ago by George P. Mitchell himself, HARC plants the seeds of transformation at the intersection of science, resilience, sustainability, and the environment.

Per the March 29 news release from CEFTx, John Hall, President & CEO of HARC says, “We are excited to join forces with the team at Clean Energy Fund of Texas as they drive green investment in low-income and disadvantaged communities. Our research expertise and experience in managing state and federal grants will be a true benefit to Texans.”

The recent MOU brings Energy Transition visionaries the capital necessary to explore, test, develop, and deploy innovative solutions from conception to maturity. Entrepreneurs at all stages of the business lifecycle are encouraged to apply for funding on the CEFTx website or connect with HARC at an upcoming event to discover how the two entities can take ideas from dream to reality.

“It’s an honor to work with the esteemed researchers at HARC, who have been studying sustainability for decades,” says Stephen Brown of CEFTx in the release. “Together we can be even more effective at kickstarting investments in solar power, retrofits, and other technologies that help create the green workforce of tomorrow.”

The fresh approach to funding set up by CEFTx and HARC positions new companies to succeed and enables existing companies to progress in the transition to a more sustainable #futureofenergy. It’s just the sort of sense that is needed to truly drive change.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Chevron, TotalEnergies back energy storage startup's $15.8M series A

money moves

A California startup that's revolutionizing polymer cathode battery technology has announced its series A round of funding with support from Houston-based energy transition leaders.

LiNova Energy Inc. closed a $15.8 million series A round led by Catalus Capital. Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, which has its US HQ in Houston, and Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures, also participated in the round with a coalition of other investors.

LiNova will use the funds with its polymer cathode battery to advance the energy storage landscape, according to the company. The company uses a high-energy polymer battery technology that is designed to allow material replacement of the traditional cathode that is made up of cobalt, nickel, and other materials.

The joint development agreement with Saft will have them collaborate to develop the battery technology for commercialization in Saft's key markets.

“We are proud to collaborate with LiNova in scaling up its technology, leveraging the extensive experience of Saft's research teams, our newest prototype lines, and our industrial expertise in battery cell production," Cedric Duclos, CEO of Saft, says in a news release.

CTV recently announced its $500 million Future Energy Fund III, which aims to lead on emerging mobility, energy decentralization, industrial decarbonization, and the growing circular economy. Chevron has promised to spend $10 billion on lower carbon energy investments and projects by 2028.

Houston innovation leaders secure SBA funding to start equitability-focused energy lab

trying for DEI

A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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.”