HCC's Transportation Center of Excellence Electric Vehicle training program received a donation of $200,000 from BP America. Photo courtesy of HCC

BP America agreed to donate a large sum to Houston Community College in order to support the future of the city's electric vehicle workforce.

During the Board of Trustees meeting, HCC's Transportation Center of Excellence Electric Vehicle training program received a donation of $200,000 from BP America. The program plans to use the funds for a safety and fundamentals course for more than 300 City of Houston’s and Harris County fleet department employees, which equips technicians to repair and maintain EVs.

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of this important education to equip Houstonians with the knowledge and skills to maintain electric vehicles,” Chancellor Margaret Ford Fisher says in a news release. “This generous donation is a win for the partners involved and for helping to ensure a sustainable future.”

The Transportation Center of Excellence's EV training program has already trained more than 100 fleet mechanics and automotive technicians. It began on April 1 at the HCC North Forest Campus Automotive Training Center. With state-of-the-art equipment for hands-on training and classroom instruction,instructors show technicians potential risks associated with the high-voltage elements of EVs.

"We are proud to support the HCC Transportation Center of Excellence - Electric Vehicle training program," Mark Crawford, senior vice president at BP America adds in the release. "This partnership aligns with BP's commitment to sustainable livelihoods and advancing the energy transition."

Houston Community College's new program is training the future renewables workforce. Photo courtesy of HCC

Houston college system adds solar installation program for student-led action on renewables

renewable workforce development

Houston college students students are helping to address the ever-developing needs for renewable energy with the college’s latest solar installation program.

Houston Community College's Solar Energy Technology Photovoltaic and Thermal certificate programs will require students to complete six classes that amount to 18 college credit hours.

The new initiative will provide students with a Level I certificate through HCC’s Electrical Technology program at the HCC Architectural Design and Construction Center of Excellence. Afterwards, they can test to earn industry credentials like the North American Board of Certified Energy Providers photovoltaic associate certification. Students can also study solar systems design, solar inspection, solar sales, or explore engineering degrees post-HCC.

“This board certification is a powerful endorsement of our solar certificate and our professionalism,” Kris Asper, dean of the Center of Excellence, says in a news release. “We are excited that our certificate has been thoroughly reviewed and now has this important distinction. It means we are teaching the best to our solar PV students.”

The demand for solar photovoltaic installers is expected to increase almost 30 percent by 2031 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The need within the solar energy sector is growing exponentially,” said HCC Central College President Dr. Muddassir Siddiqi in a news release. “Community colleges like HCC play a crucial part in opening up this sector to new workers, including students who have been historically underserved by our national energy policies.”

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Houston-based Solugen named among annual top disruptors

on the rise

Houston-based biotech startup Solugen is making waves among innovative companies.

Solugen appears at No. 36 on CNBC’s annual Disruptor 50 list, which highlights private companies that are “upending the classic definition of disruption.” Privately owned startups founded after January 1, 2009, were eligible for the Disruptor 50 list.

Founded in 2016, Solugen replaces petroleum-based products with plant-derived substitutes through its Bioforge manufacturing platform. For example, it uses engineered enzymes and metal catalysts to convert feedstocks like sugar into chemicals that have traditionally been made from fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas.

Solugen has raised $643 million in funding and now boasts a valuation of $2.2 billion.

“Sparked by a chance medical school poker game conversation in 2016, Solugen evolved from prototype to physical asset in five years, and production hit commercial scale shortly thereafter,” says CNBC.

Solugen co-founders Gaurab Chakrabarti and Sean Hunt received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2023 National Award, presented by professional services giant EY.

“Solugen is a textbook startup launched by two partners with $10,000 in seed money that is revolutionizing the chemical refining industry. The innovation-driven company is tackling impactful, life-changing issues important to the planet,” Entrepreneur of The Year judges wrote.

In April 2024, Solugen broke ground on a Bioforge biomanufacturing plant in Marshall, Minnesota. The 500,000-square-foot, 34-acre facility arose through a Solugen partnership with ADM. Chicago-based ADM produces agricultural products, commodities, and ingredients. The plant is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“Solugen’s … technology is a transformative force in sustainable chemical manufacturing,” says Hunt. “The new facility will significantly increase our existing capabilities, enabling us to expand the market share of low-carbon chemistries.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Tesla shareholders ask investors to vote against Musk's compensation package

just say no

A group of Texas-based Tesla's shareholders is asking investors to vote against a compensation package worth more than $40 billion for CEO Elon Musk, saying that it's not in the electric vehicle maker's best interest.

Tesla is struggling with falling global sales, slowing electric vehicle demand, an aging model lineup and a stock price that has tumbled 30 percent this year.

The shareholder group, which includes New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, SOC Investment Group and Amalgamated Bank, said in a letter to shareholders that ratification of Musk's pay package would do nothing to promote Tesla's long-term growth and stability.

There's also concern that approval of the pay package will potentially lead to lawsuits arguing that it is corporate waste. And Musk is viewed as a part-time CEO at Tesla, with his time increasingly being spent on other business commitments, the letter said.

“Shareholders should not pretend that this award has any kind of incentivizing effect—it does not. What it does have is an excessiveness problem, which has been glaringly apparent from the start,” the group said.

They noted that if shareholders ratify the compensation package, it's possible that another plan will be put forth next year.

“Given Tesla’s history of exponentially larger awards, Musk may well ask for another award,” the group said.

The group is also asking investors to vote against the reelection of board members Kimbal Musk, Elon's brother, and James Murdoch, a former executive at media company Twenty-First Century Fox.

Last month Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package, which was valued at $56 billion at the time, that was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s corporate home to Texas.

The changes will be voted on by stockholders at a June 13 annual meeting.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Chairperson Robyn Denholm said that Musk has delivered on the growth it was looking for at the automaker, with Tesla meeting all of the stock value and operational targets in the 2018 package that was approved by shareholders. Shares at the time were up 571 percent since the pay package began.

“Because the Delaware Court second-guessed your decision, Elon has not been paid for any of his work for Tesla for the past six years that has helped to generate significant growth and stockholder value,” Denholm wrote. “That strikes us — and the many stockholders from whom we already have heard — as fundamentally unfair, and inconsistent with the will of the stockholders who voted for it.”

Tesla posted record deliveries of more than 1.8 million electric vehicles worldwide in 2023, but the value of its shares has eroded quickly this year as EV sales soften.

The company said it delivered 386,810 vehicles from January through March, nearly 9 percent fewer than it sold in the same period last year. Future growth is in doubt and it may be a challenge to get shareholders to back a fat pay package in an environment where competition has increased worldwide.

Starting last year, Tesla has cut prices as much as $20,000 on some models. The price cuts caused used electric vehicle values to drop and clipped Tesla’s profit margins.

In April, Tesla said that it was letting about 10 percent of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Greentown Labs to launch another executive search, CEO to step down after less than a year in the position

on the hunt

Greentown Labs, which is co-located in the Boston and Houston areas, has announced its current CEO is stepping down after less than a year in the position.

The nonprofit's CEO and President Kevin Knobloch announced that he will be stepping down at the end of July 2024. Knobloch assumed his role last September, previously serving as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term.

“It has been an honor to lead this incredible team and organization, and a true privilege to get to know many of our brilliant startup founders," Knobloch says in the news release. “Greentown is a proven leader in supporting early-stage climatetech companies and I can’t wait to see all that it will accomplish in the coming years.”

The news of Knobloch's departure comes just over a month after the organization announced that it was eliminating 30 percent of its staff, which affected 12 roles in Boston and six in Houston.

According the Greentown, its board of directors is expected to launch a national search for its next CEO.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Kevin for his efforts to strengthen the foundation of Greentown Labs and for charting the next chapter for the organization through a strategic refresh process,” says Dawn James, Greentown Labs Board Chair, in the release. “His thoughtful leadership will leave a lasting impact on the team and community for years to come.”

Knobloch reportedly shifted Greentown's sponsorship relationships with oil companies, sparking "friction within the organization," according to the Houston Chronicle, which also reported that Knobloch said he intends to return to his clean energy consulting firm.