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

Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a really big deal from last week, an expert's opinion on sustainability strategy, and events not to miss.

Really big deal: Houston energy transition growth capital firm closes $1.5B fund

EnCap Energy Transition's Fund II, or EETF II, was created to invest in solutions to decarbonize the power industry, and invest in low carbon fuels and carbon management. This second energy transition fund follows EnCap Energy Transition Fund I, a $1.2 billion fund that deployed capital to seven material portfolio company investments and four fund realizations with Broad Reach Power, Jupiter Power, Triple Oak, and Paloma Solar & Wind.

Previously, the company made investment commitments to five portfolio companies through EETF II, including Bildmore Renewables, Linea Energy, Parliament Solar, Power Transitions, and Arbor Renewable Gas. EnCap expects to have 8 to 10 portfolio companies in EETF II in total.

"The EnCap Energy Transition team is proud to have raised a sizeable pool of capital to continue to invest in the opportunity created by the shift to a lower-carbon energy system,” EnCap Energy Transition Managing Partner Jim Hughes says in a news release. Read more about the deal.

Guest column: Why companies are investing in sustainable energy technology

As senior vice president of Enchanted Rock, a Houston-based provider of microgrid technology, Ken Cowan has seen how energy resilience has emerged as a key strategy for businesses across industries, as he writes in a guest column for InnovationMap.

"Executives must recognize the strategic imperative of investing in resilient energy infrastructure like microgrid systems, which can provide a competitive advantage against organizations that do not have similar measures in place," he writes. "In doing so, they can navigate uncertainty with confidence, set their business up for future success, and emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before."

In the piece, he explores the value proposition and other benefits to making these changes. Click here to read more.

Events not to miss

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

  • The 2024 KPMG Global Energy Conference is taking place Wednesday, May 15, at the Post Oak Hotel. The event will focus on areas such as capital investment, mergers and acquisitions, risk and resiliency, technology, and human capital. Register now.
  • The Clean Energy Security and Reliability Forum is co-located with the 2024 RE+ Texas on May 15 to 16. This conference will bring together leading experts to discuss regulatory frameworks and technological innovations that can ensure that solar and energy storage projects are the most secure and reliable source of electricity generation on the U.S. grid. Register now.
  • The Energy Drone & Robotics Summit is coming to Houston June 10 to 12. Join for the ultimate event in the world for UAVs, Robotics & Data/AI, 3D Reality Capture, Geospatial and Digital Twins focused on the business and technology in energy & industrial operations, inspections, maintenance, surveying & mapping. Register now.
  • Join the over 150 senior energy and utilities leaders from June 17 to 18 in Houston for AI in Energy to unlock the potential of AI within your enterprise and delve into key areas for its development.Register now.

    The Climate Equity Report was developed to help foster positive, two-way communication and engagement between Houston-area energy companies and the communities they impact. Photo via Getty Images

    Key takeaways from HETI's Climate Equity Report

    The view from heti

    The mission of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI) is to drive sustainable and equitable economic growth for an energy-abundant, low-carbon future in the greater Houston region.

    Community engagement will play a key role in ensuring the environmental and economic benefits of the energy transition flow to all members of Greater Houston. This requires a shared understanding of concerns, values, and goals.

    “As we make this transition to a lower-carbon energy future, we’re doing it in a way that creates economic opportunity for all Houstonians,” said Jane Stricker, Senior Vice President, Energy Transition and Executive Director of HETI. “When we think about what role community plays in that work, HETI is supported by industry leaders and a community advisory board to ensure that as this work moves forward, it moves forward in a way that benefits everyone.”

    HETI recently collaborated with the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), Sallie Greenberg Consulting (SGC), energy companies with a presence in the region, and impacted community organization stakeholders and leaders to develop a baseline understanding of current corporate climate action, community needs, and preferred methods of engagement.

    “We engaged HARC and SGC to help us to explore the intersection of the energy transition and community engagement,” said Stricker. “They helped us create a collaborative framework to support both companies and communities in advancing solutions for an equitable energy transition. The team has done a truly outstanding job to develop this report and framework.”

    The Climate Equity Report, which includes the Framework for an Equitable Energy Transition and the Community Engagement Toolkit for an Equitable Energy Transition, was developed to help foster positive, two-way communication and engagement between Houston-area energy companies and the communities they impact. The Framework and Toolkit are based on in-depth research and interviews — with the aim of bridging the gap between corporate climate action, community engagement, and the federal government’s approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

    “We have the opportunity to reassess how we approach these very important issues,” said John Hall, President and CEO of HARC. “Community members are not just interested in talking and becoming acquainted with the industry — they want to engage in constructive dialogue with the aim of delivering meaningful benefits that will improve the quality of their lives and those of their neighbors.”

    “What I see for the first time in the 25 years that I’ve been working in this space is that we have a significant opportunity—right now—to change how we work in communities, how we work with communities, and how we can enter in a partnership to be able to drive equitable energy transition activities forward,” said Dr. Sallie Greenberg, Scientist, Strategic Advisor, and Engagement Specialist at Sallie Greenberg Consulting.

    Findings from the Climate Equity Report highlight best practices and strategies to improve relationships, build trust, and address concerns. Ten key findings include:

    • Basic needs
      Helping the community address basic needs and reduce existing risks can reduce barriers to participation and improve community member engagement around the energy transition.
    • Equity considerations
      Equity considerations are growing increasingly important. Communities are looking for authentic processes that include community input on the highest-priority challenges.
    • Two-way engagement
      Successful two-way engagement requires information to flow in both directions. Authentic, targeted community engagement will be a key enabler of climate equity and decarbonization in Houston.
    • Transparency
      As energy companies seek to broaden engagement efforts, transparency is key. Project information must be as transparent and available as possible.
    • Trust flow
      There is a gap between company and community perceptions of engagement largely based on a “trust deficit” that will take time to address.
    • Engagement frequency
      Engagement alone isn’t enough. Consistent, frequent, organic engagement is required to build trust and overcome the “trust deficit” between energy companies and communities.
    • Accountability
      Impacts can be tangible and intangible. Community engagement work must be evaluated using a data-driven approach that measures how engagement activities address inequalities and benefit impacted groups.
    • Shifting priorities
      The type of engagement the community and the federal government wants and expects has changed. Companies must address this change to ensure community needs are acknowledged and met.
    • Stakeholder identification
      Not all stakeholders have the same voice or level of influence. Truly equitable engagement requires the inclusion of marginalized groups, especially those in frontline communities.
    • Program evaluation
      The evaluation process helps companies determine if engagement goals are being met. This includes conducting observations, surveys, and interviews throughout the evaluation process before sharing results with stakeholders and making program improvements based on the collected information.

    Read the full report here. Watch the Connect on Climate Equity webinar.

    ———

    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.

    Texas' solar market will be missing about three hours of sunlight today — and more things to know this week. Photo courtesy of NASA

    How the eclipse will test Texas' solar market, events not to miss, and more things to know in Houston energy

    take note

    Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, what to expect from the eclipse, and more.


    Eyes on ERCOT amid eclipse

    For three hours today, Texas' solar energy market will be affected by the solar eclipse. According to a report from the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, Texas ranks third in the U.S. for residential solar power generation, so the moon's interception to the sunlight can be a real test to ERCOT, which reported that they have worked with solar forecast vendors on what to expect from solar generation on the grid during the eclipse.

    "As we did in preparation for the October 2023 eclipse, ERCOT is actively monitoring the forecasts and available dispatchable capacity for April 8," reads a statement from the organization's March report. "ERCOT will rely on Ancillary Services and other actions to posture the system as necessary during the eclipse to compensate for both the reduction and increase in solar generation on this day and maintain grid reliability. ERCOT has been engaging Market Participants so that they are prepared for the eclipse and expects sufficient generation to meet demand."

    Events not to miss

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

    • The Digital Wildcatters is hosting its Energy Tech Night in Houston on April 17. Register.
    • On April 17, the University of Houston presents "Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities & Solutions" featuring experts from academia, industry, government, and more. The symposium begins at 8 am with a networking reception takes place beginning at 5 pm at the University of Houston Student Center South - Theater Room. Register.
    • Ally Energy is hosting its Unconference - Energy 2.0 on April 18 to explore the energy renaissance. Register.
    • The inaugural, student-led TEX-E Conference is taking place on April 19 at TMC's Helix Park. The event’s mission is to empower budding student entrepreneurs to advance their climatetech ventures and inspire industry leaders to support these groundbreaking startups coming out of Texas’ universities. Register.
    • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.

    Really big deal: Shell's EV charging plans

    As it downshifts sales of fuel for traditional vehicles, energy giant Shell is stepping up its commitment to public charging stations for electric vehicles.

    In a new report on energy transition, Shells lays out an aggressive plan for growing its public network of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The company plans to boost the global number of public EV charging stations from about 54,000 today to around 70,000 by 2025 and about 200,000 by 2030.

    The projected growth from today to 2030 would represent a 270 percent increase in the number of Shell-operated EV charging stations.

    “We have a major competitive advantage in terms of locations, as our global network of service stations is one of the largest in the world,” Shell says in the report. Read the full story.

    Looking back on CERAWeek 2024 — and more things to know this week. Photo courtesy of CERAWeek

    CERAWeek in review, a podcast to stream, and more things to know in Houston energy transition this week

    take note

    Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a podcast to stream, and more.

    CERAWeek in review

    Last week, we wrapped up the top five themes of CERAWeek on EnergyCapital, including geothermal, the rise of AI, and more.

    Let's look back on all the articles from the conference, in case you missed it:

    Podcast to stream: Sean Kelly of Amperon

    Sean Kelly says he didn't seek to start a clean tech company. He saw a need and opportunity for more accurate energy forecasting, and he built it.

    But Amperon has made it on lists highlighting energy transition innovation on more than one occasion — and caught the eye of renewable energy giants.

    "We don't brand ourselves as a clean tech company," Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Amperon, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast, "but we have four of the top six or eight wind providers who have all invested in Amperon. So, there's something there."

    The technology that Amperon provides its customers — a comprehensive, AI-backed data analytics platform — is majorly key to the energy industry and the transition of the sector. Read more.

    Events not to miss

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

    • The Digital Wildcatters is hosting its Energy Tech Night in Houston on April 17. Register.
    • On April 17, the University of Houston presents "Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities & Solutions" featuring experts from academia, industry, government, and more. The symposium begins at 8 am with a networking reception takes place beginning at 5 pm at the University of Houston Student Center South - Theater Room. Register.
    • Offshore Technology Conference returns to Houston May 6 to 9. Register.

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

    Talos offloads low carbon subsidiary, events not to miss, plus more Houston energy things to know

    take note

    Editor's note: Dive headfirst into the new week with three quick things to catch up on in Houston's energy transition: a roundup of events not to miss, a really big deal, and more.

    Big deal: Talos Energy sells off low carbon arm to TotalEnergies in $148M deal

    One of the biggest energy transition deals from last week was Talos Energy selling off its subsidiary, Talos Low Carbon Solutions LLC, to TotalEnergies. The deal is for a purchase price of $125 million plus customary reimbursements, adjustments and retention of cash, which totals approximately $148 million.

    Talos plans to use the proceeds from the sale to repay borrowings under its credit facility and for general corporate purposes. The sale includes Talos's entire carbon capture and sequestration business, which includes its three projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast with Bayou Bend CCS, Harvest Bend CCS, and Coastal Bend CCS. Read more.

    Apply for the Rice Clean Energy Accelerator

    The deadline to apply for the fourth cohort of the Rice Clean Energy Accelerator is Friday, March 29. Those interested in the nine-week program can learn more and apply online.

    The program seeks to advance emerging ventures and entrepreneurs in the clean energy industry. CEA connects participants with industry leaders and investors.

    With a focus on early-stage startups operating in the TRL range of 3 to 7, accepted companies gain access to a range of benefits, including mentorship and essential resources.

    Events not to miss

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

    • DeCarb Connect supports senior leaders in decarbonization to accelerate strategy and decision making to reduce carbon emissions and reach net zero targets. The event is March 26 to 28 at Westin Houston Memorial City. Register.
    • On March 27, Greentown Houston is hosting "Accelerating Net-Zero Solutions: CCUS Innovation and Startup Showcase." Watch the Go Make 2023 cohort pitch their innovations in carbon utilization, storage, and traceability; hear about their work with Shell throughout the startup-corporate-partnerships accelerator; and learn from CCUS industry experts. Register.
    • The 3rd Annual Carbon Tracking and Reporting Conference begins next Wednesday in Houston. The event's matchmaking and networking app has been launched and registrants are viewing attendees and setting up meetings. Register.
    • On April 17, the University of Houston presents "Gulf Coast Hydrogen Ecosystem: Opportunities & Solutions" featuring experts from academia, industry, government, and more. The symposium begins at 8 am with a networking reception takes place beginning at 5 pm at the University of Houston Student Center South - Theater Room. Register.

    Here's what student-founded startups are leaving CERAWeek with fresh funding. Photo courtesy of HETI

    Houston clean tech startup pitch competition awards prizes at annual CERAWeek event

    big winners

    For the third year, the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Institute hosted its startup pitch competition at CERAWeek by S&P Global. A dozen startups walked away with recognition — and three some with cash prizes.

    HETI joined partners Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and TEX-E for the 2024 Energy Venture Day and Pitch Competition at CERAWeek on Wednesday, March 20. Forty-two companies, which have collectively raised over $265 million in investment funding already, pitched to judges. Nine startups won awards across three tracks.

    TEX-E, a Texas nonprofit that supports student-founded upstarts, had five of its companies pitch and three winners walked away with monetary prizes. Teams that competed in the TEX-E Prize track, many of which come from Houston universities, include:

    • AirMax, University of Texas at Austin
    • BeadBlocker, University of Houston
    • Carvis Energy Solutions, Texas A&M University
    • Coflux Purification, Rice University
    • Solidec, Rice University

    Solidec, which is working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, won first place and $25,000. The company also recently scored a $100,000 grant from Rice's One Small Step Grant program, as well as a voucher from the DOE. Coflux Purification, which has a technology that destroys PFAS in filtration, won second place and$15,000. The company also secured a One Small Step Grant to the tune of $80,000. AirMax, which focuses on optimizing sustainability for air conditioning equipment, won third place and $10,000.

    Last year, Houston-based Helix Earth Technologies took home the top TEX-E price and $25,000 cash awards. The venture, founded by Rawand Rasheed and Brad Husick from Rice University, developed high-speed, high-efficiency filter systems derived from technology originating at NASA.

    The rest of the companies that pitched competed for non-monetary awards. Here's what companies won:

    • Group A (CCUS, oilfield solutions, analytics and minerals):
      • First place: Ardent
      • Second place: Vaulted Deep
      • Third place: Mitico
    • Group B (batteries, renewables, water, and grid technology):
      • First place: SungreenH2
      • Second place: FeX Energy
      • Third place: Mercurius Biorefining
    • Group C (Mobility, Materials, and hydrogen solutions)
      • First place: Thiozen
      • Second place: Power2Hydrogen
      • Third place: Arolytics
    • People's choice: Decimetrix
    HETI, Rice Alliance, and TEX-E celebrated the winners at a private reception on Wednesday evening.

    ———

    This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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    Houston's energy industry deemed both a strength and weakness on global cities report

    mixed reviews

    A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

    The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

    Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

    New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

    In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

    “And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

    The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

    Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

    “Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

    Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

    Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

    Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

    Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

    “Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

    ———

    This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

    New collaboration to build data center microgrid in Houston

    coming soon

    Two companies are teaming up to build a natural gas microgrid in Houston that will reduce emissions by 98 percent.

    Provider of prime and backup power solutions RPower has teamed up with Houston’s ViVaVerse Solutions to build a 17-megawatt (MW) microgrid at the ViVa Center campus in Houston, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

    The microgrid plans to employ ultra-low emissions and natural gas generators to deliver Resiliency-as-a-Service (RaaS), and this will connect to ViVaVerse's colocation data center operations during utility outages.

    RPower will also deploy the microgrid across different ERCOT market programs, which will contribute to assist with essential capacity and ancillary services for the local grid. ERCOT has increased its use of renewable energy in recent years, but still has faced criticism for unstable conditions. The microgrids can potentially assist ERCOT, and also help cut back on emissions.

    “RPower's pioneering microgrid will not only deliver essential N+1 resiliency to our data center operations but will also contribute to the local community by supplying necessary capacity during peak demand periods when the electric grid is strained,” Eduardo Morales, CEO of ViVaVerse Solutions and Morales Capital Group, says in a news release.

    ViVaVerse Solutions will be converting the former Compaq Computer/HPE headquarters Campus into an innovative technology hub called the ViVa Center, which will host the High-Performance Computing Data Center, and spaces dedicated to mission critical infrastructure and technical facilities . The hub will host 200 data labs.

    “We are thrilled to partner with ViVaVerse to deploy this `first of its kind' microgrid solution in the data center space,” Jeff Starcher, CEO of RPower, adds. “Our natural gas backup generation system delivers the same reliability and performance as traditional diesel systems, but with a 98 percent reduction in emissions. Further, the RPower system provides critical grid services and will respond to the volatility of renewable generation, further enabling the energy transition to a carbon free future.”