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 roundup of events not to miss, a deadline not to miss, and more.

ICYMI: Clean energy networking and showcase coming to Houston in September

Greentown Labs, Halliburton Labs, and the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship have announced Houston Energy and Climate Startup Week 2024 taking place September 9 to 13.

“These organizations will execute events that will serve as a launching pad for an Energy and Climate Startup Week in Houston, showcasing the city as a national hub for the energy future,” Brad Burke, executive director of the Rice Alliance, says in the release. “We welcome the community to bring other energy and climate events to the week, which we’ll cross-promote as the dates approach.”

The week will assemble investors, industry leaders, and startups from across the energy industry and from around the world to showcase Houston's growing sustainable, low-carbon energy future. Read more about the inaugural week.

Rice's Clean Energy Accelerator to open applications for its next cohort

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator helps seed-stage startups from around the world developing clean energy solutions achieve technical and commercial milestones that accelerate development, establish market adoption, and expand their reach.

Applications for Class Four go live on March 4 and close on March 29. Rice Alliance is hosting an info session on March 5. More details on the program and registration for the session can be found online.

Events not to miss

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

  • Hydrogen networking at Greentown Labs is Tuesday, February 20, at 4:30 pm at Greentown Houston. Register.
  • The Future of Energy Across the Americas: Helping Lawyers Predict and Adapt — the 2024 Houston Energy Conference — is February 27 to March 1. Register.
  • CERAWeek 2024 is Monday, March 18, to Friday, March 22, in the George R. Brown Convention Center. Register.

Events not to miss, nomination deadline for awards program for innovative energy businesses, and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

Calling all energy startups, Amazon enters the DAC chat, and more things to know this week

hou knew?

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem. Submit an energy transition company to an awards program, read how Amazon entered the DAC conversation, and learn about events not to miss this week.

Houston Innovation Awards nominations coming to a close

Photo via Getty Images

If you haven't heard, EnergyCapital's sister site, InnovationMap, is accepting nominations for the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards. The deadline to submit is tomorrow, September 19, and there are several categories that might be of interest to the Houston energy transition ecosystem, such as:

  • Hardtech Business, honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology
  • Digital Solutions Business, honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to a problem in an industry
  • Sustainability Business, honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, circular economy, and beyond
  • Corporate of the Year, honoring a corporation that supports startups and/or the Houston innovation community
  • People's Choice: Startup of the Year, selected via an interactive voting portal during the event
Now, these are only a few categories this year. To submit a nomination and read more about the awards, click here.

Events to have on your radar

Photo courtesy of The Cannon

  • September 21 — The Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum is an opportunity to learn about the latest emerging technologies, meet investors to seek funding, see promising companies, and more. (Note: I'm moderating a panel about venture investment at 2 pm)
  • September 21 — UH Energy Symposium, a panel series, is hosting its next installment, entitled Plastics, Chemicals, Circularity: What's Next?
  • September 28 — Chevron Technology Ventures seeks to identify novel technologies and innovation systems that stand to transform and improve facility-focused operational efficiencies, via the Chevron Technology Ventures Pitch Competition. Six Houston companies will compete to win a tailored field trial opportunity with CTV experts, plus a six-month, complimentary, flexible-workspace membership at The Cannon.

Amazon makes investment in direct air capture by way of Houston-based Oxy

Photo via 1pointfive.com

Houston-based cleantech company 1PointFive is among the recipients of e-commerce giant Amazon’s first investments in carbon-fighting direct air capture (DAC).

Amazon has agreed to buy 250,000 metric tons of carbon removal credits from Stratos, 1PointFive’s first DAC plant, over a 10-year span. That commitment is equivalent to the amount of carbon stored naturally across more than 290,000 acres of U.S. forecasts, says Amazon.

As Amazon explains, DAC technology filters CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it in underground geological formations. Aside from being stored, removed carbon can be used to make building materials like bricks, cement, and concrete. Read more.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston energy businesses score spots on prestigious list of most influential companies

LEADING THE PACK

Five companies with strong ties to Houston have been named among this year’s 100 most influential companies by Time magazine, with a few representing the energy industry.

The five companies are:

  • South Korea’s Hanwha Group, whose Hanwha Power Systems Americas subsidiary is in Houston. Hanwha, known as the “Lockheed Martin of Asia,” was praised for winning approval last year from the American Bureau of Shipping for the world’s first large-scale, carbon-free liquefied natural gas (LNG) vessel.
  • Saudi Aramco, whose Americas headquarters is in Houston. Time cited Saudi Aramco’s dominance in the global oil market as a $1.9 billion “giant.”
  • Germany-based ThyssenKrupp Nucera, whose U.S. headquarters is in Houston. The company builds alkaline water electrolyzers to power steel mills and other fossil-fuel-dependent industrial sites.
  • United Airlines, which operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Chicago-based United was lauded for funding startups that help produce sustainable aviation fuel.
  • Houston-based Intuitive Machines. In February, the company’s Odysseus spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to land on the moon. The feat also marked the first U.S. landing on the moon since 1972.

To come up with the fourth annual list, Time solicited nominations and polled in-house contributors and correspondents, along with external experts. Editors at Time then evaluated each company based on factors such as impact, innovation, ambition, and success.

“The result is a diverse group of 100 businesses helping chart an essential path forward,” the magazine says.

In a news release, Time’s editor in chief, Sam Jacobs, says the list of 100 companies “is more than an index of business success.”

“It is an argument for what business influence looks like in 2024,” Jacobs adds. “At a time when leadership in other sectors is battered, surveys suggest that many look to corporate leaders first for direction …. Each show us how companies can provide new models and new inspiration for the future of humanity.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston solar manufacturer opens new 50,000-square-foot facility

new to hou

A Houston-area solar tracker manufacturer opened its new manufacturing facilities last week. The $30 million project is dedicated to manufacturing solar structures and trackers in part of the country’s goal to expand solar power generation infrastructure.

PV Hardware USA cut the ribbon on the new facility on May 30 in Houston. The new, 50,000-square-foot facility is one of America’s largest, according to the company.

“With the opening of this factory in Houston, PVH USA is affirming its unwavering commitment to solar energy development in the United States,” PVH CEO Emilio García says in a news release. “Our Houston operation will be a key player in the development of utility-scale solar energy across America, and we look forward to driving progress as a leading solar tracker manufacturer.”

PV Hardware USA cut the ribbon on the new facility on May 30 in Houston. Photo courtesy of PVH

The facility aims to provide custom-built solar tracking systems for new solar generation projects, which is expected to be a lead source of growth in the U.S. energy power sector. Solar power generation is projected to increase from 95 Gigawatts (GW) of total generating capacity to 131 GW in 2024, and then climb to 174 GW by 2025 according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The new Houston factory will employ more than 120 local workers, and is part of a larger mission to bring jobs, and increased awareness to renewable energy efforts.

“We are committed to powering the solar revolution with U.S. manufacturing and workers,” Garcia adds in the release. “The incentives provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are a tremendous opportunity to promote domestic manufacturing and support local communities. PVH USA aims to contribute to job creation and economic growth while bolstering the nation's renewable energy infrastructure.”

The new 50,000-square-foot facility is one of America’s largest, according to the company. Photo courtesy of PVH

Op-Ed: To protect the Texas grid, help Texans protect themselves

guest column

On the evening of May 16, a devastating “derecho” storm howled through Houston. Nearly 800,000 customers lost power. Many were still without electricity days later, as a heat wave baked neighborhoods that couldn’t power air conditioners.

It was yet another unwelcome reminder about the precariousness of the power grid.

These outages followed repeated grid warnings, conservation calls, and near-misses last summer and the summer before, as well as the catastrophic Winter Storm Uri freeze in February 2021.

The outages also preceded the increasingly extreme weather Texas faces and staggering growth on the ERCOT grid: after growing about 1 percent a year for 20 years, the power grid covering most of Texas may need to be 78 percent bigger by 2030.

So, this latest incident is more than a sign that Houstonians must take control of their power. It also shows that more and more, the state needs you to act.

Like any other market, a power grid runs on supply and demand. The supply of Texas energy is growing, which is great. At the same time, the economy is booming, leaving Texas setting demand records almost constantly. Generators can’t always keep up, especially when power plants break down or don’t produce electricity — there’s about an 18 percent chance that Texas will face at least one grid emergency this summer.

With odds like that, it’s no wonder that more and more Texans are finding ways to live more powerfully. Many are investing in solar panels and energy storage devices like Tesla Powerwalls.

These systems let families and business owners generate electricity during the day, store it, and use it later when there’s an emergency or just when power is scarce. They protect people from high bills and blackouts; it’s no coincidence that just since last month's storm, we've seen a five-fold increase in leads, reflecting a huge growth in interest in solar power. Further, since the storm, 90 percent of new Houston-area solar customers have bought backup battery systems, compared to 50 percent in 2024 and less than 25 percent in 2023.

That pattern has repeated across the country after severe weather events.

Homeowners and business owners can also slash their bills by weatherizing houses and buildings, the way power plants did after Uri. Advanced devices that help people automatically, and voluntarily, reduce electricity use when the grid is stretched would also help.

These improvements and investments would help more than just homeowners and business owners — they’d help the entire power grid. Every kilowatt that someone doesn’t need or can generate themselves frees up power for other families and businesses across the grid. That helps Texas keep the lights on, especially if electricity demand is about to spike as dramatically as the state expects.

Texas already incentivizes conservation and generation at a large scale. For example, large users like manufacturers and crypto miners get paid by ERCOT for reducing electricity use when the grid is stretched. And just last year, the legislature passed a $10 billion program to help fund new gas power plants.

It’s past time to extend similar incentives to everyday Texans, especially when we’re increasingly called upon to help ERCOT keep the lights on.

If crypto companies get money for reducing electricity use when ERCOT asks them to, then residential and business customers deserve to get paid too. The state could help Texans invest in technologies and smart metering programs that cut bills andautomatically reward people for reducing use on the hottest afternoons and coldest mornings.

More than that, the state has got to do more to reward solar customers who generate electricity and return it to the grid when demand rises. These virtual power plants will increasingly provide vital power when the state badly needs it, and consumers need to be rewarded for it. (Fortunately, the state is looking at strategies to take better advantage of virtual power plants.)

Finally, if Texas is helping big generators build gas plants, it should figure out ways to help regular Texans install solar panels and battery storage units. Such systems obviously help protect Texans from power outages, but they also fortify the ERCOT grid by reducing the demand on it.

Last month’s derecho was exactly the sort of freak occurrence that will become more common as the weather grows more extreme. The best way to protect the grid from such catastrophes is to protect individual Texas customers as well.

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Bret Biggart is CEO of Freedom Solar Power, a Texas-based solar company.