Greentown Labs has a new Terawatt Partner. Photo courtesy of Greentown Labs

Greentown Labs, dual located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, has named its latest top-level partner.

TotalEnergies has joined the incubator at the the highest level of partnership — the Terawatt level — Greentown Labs announced on January 23. Through the partnership, TotalEnergies will have access to Greentown's membership of clean energy startups and event programming.

Lotfi Hedhli, president at TotalEnergies Research & Technology U.S., will participate on Greentown’s Industry Leadership Council, providing strategic guidance to the incubator.

“We are excited to join Greentown Labs and its ecosystem to catalyze the development of potential decarbonization technologies through collaboration with promising startups,” Hedhli says in a news release. “This partnership with Greentown Labs will focus in particular on the deployment and use of renewables and low-carbon solutions, which are critical to our ambition to achieve carbon neutrality.”

TotalEnergies is among the world's largest utility-scale solar developers with activity in over 30 states in the country, including a Houston-area solar farm that went online in October. Additionally, TotalEnergies announced in November that it signed an agreement with TexGen to acquire $635 million three gas-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1.5 GW in Texas.

“At Greentown Labs, we continue to recognize and appreciate the role energy leaders play in the clean energy transition and we’re proud to have TotalEnergies join us as a Terawatt Partner,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in the news release. “We applaud the meaningful steps TotalEnergies is taking to expand its renewable energy portfolio and generation, and we’re eager to have their team of experts engaging directly with our climatetech entrepreneurs.”

Greentown last named a Terawatt Partner — GE Vernova — last fall.

Greentown Labs has a new tool for evaluating potential members. Photo via Getty Images

Greentown Labs partners with VC firm on new emissions calculator integration

carbon footprint

If you want to be a member at either Boston-area or Houston location of Greentown Labs, you better have a small carbon footprint.

Leading global venture capital firm Clean Energy Ventures, which funds early-stage climate tech innovations, announced a partnership to offer access to the firm’s Simple Emissions Reduction Calculator (SERC) to Greentown Labs, the largest climate tech incubator in North America that is dually located in Houston and Sommerville, Massachusetts. New members will be required to report their CO2e emissions reduction potential as part of the incubator’s climate impact assessment as part of the Greentown Labs’ application process.

Greentown Labs has nurtured more than 525 companies across its two locations with a 94 percent success rate for startups. Greentown Labs supports and fosters collaboration with corporates, early-stage entrepreneurs, investors, government and other players while providing members access to labs and resources.

“As we continue our work to support the most innovative climate tech startups, we’re doubling down on how we quantify impact — both the impact Greentown Labs is having on the entrepreneurs we’re privileged to support, and the impact the startups themselves are having by reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Kevin Knobloch, CEO and president of Greentown Labs, says in a news release. “Having access to this timely tool that Clean Energy Ventures has created is elevating our recruitment efforts and helping us standardize how we quantify the projected impact of our member community.”

CEV developed SERC in 2021 to assist startups with tools and algorithms to estimate their technology or business model’s emissions reduction potential. SERC is now used as an essential screening tool in over 1,000 companies asn a climate tech accelerators, incubators and investors across the globe, and was awarded an honorable mention by Fast Company World Changing Ideas in 2022.

“As climate tech investors, we are always eager to support the growth of an ecosystem of innovation and impact,” CEV Managing Partner David Miller in says in the release. “With the number of climate tech companies seeking investments today, startups that are able to estimate their innovation’s capacity to mitigate CO2e emissions truly stand out from the crowd and are more likely to secure investment. Through SERC, investors are able to gain critical insight to back the most impactful technologies with the potential to address climate change as quickly as possible over the next two decades.”

ACCEL has opened applications for next year. Photo via Getty Images

Applications open for inclusive cleantech accelerator

appy now

Calling all cleantech startups founded by innovators of color — an inclusive accelerator program is now accepting applications.

Advancing Climatetech and Clean Energy Leaders Program, or ACCEL, has opened applications for it's second cohort. The program — from Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space — provides access to funding, networking connections, incubation space, mentorship, resources, and opportunities for energy tech founders of color for a year.

“ACCEL is one of the most impactful, meaningful programs we’ve run to date,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a news release. “We are eager to expand upon the great success and momentum of year one, and to welcome another incredible cohort of BIPOC-led startups that are developing much-needed climatetech solutions. We’re equally committed to helping these companies accelerate and deploy their solutions, while also helping to build a more diverse, inclusive climatetech workforce—ACCEL sits at the nexus of those two critical efforts.”

The program, supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, accelerated six startups this year — Active Surfaces, DrinKicks, EarthBond, florrent, frakktal, and SpadXTech.

“The ACCEL Program directly aligns with our mission to ensure that climatetech jobs and wealth creation opportunities are available to all residents of the Commonwealth,” Emily Reichert, CEO at MassCEC and former CEO at Greentown, says in the release. “We are excited to see the second round of this important program, with our Equity Workforce Fund support fostering a partnership between Greentown Labs and Browning the Green Space aimed at accelerating the growth of minority and women business enterprises in Massachusetts.”

ACCEL, which doles out $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding to each participant, is also supported by Boston-based Barr Foundation and provides programming from VentureWell, a nonprofit with expertise in climatetech.

“Through our partnership with Greentown and VentureWell, we are able to put our respective strengths together to create an ambitious program to bolster founders of color in climatetech and propel innovations that benefit communities most impacted by climate change,” Kerry Bowie, executive director and president of Browning the Green Space, says in the release. “Opening applications for Year 2 of ACCEL is an important milestone in strengthening critical support for traditionally excluded entrepreneurs in our communities.”

Applications for ACCEL are open until January 5, 2024. While entrepreneurs from anywhere can apply, preference will be given to applicants in Greater Boston and Greater Houston, where Greentown’s incubators are located.

GE Verona joins Greentown Labs as a top-tier partner. Photo via gevernova.com

Greentown Labs names GE affiliate as latest top-level partner

new to the crew

Greentown Labs, dually located in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, has announced its latest Terawatt Partner, which is the climatetech incubator's highest-level partnership.

Greentown Labs announced this week thatGE Vernova, a global energy company that focusing on moving the energy transition through "continuing to electrify the world," has joined its top tier of partners. Greentown has over 20 of these Terawatt Partners, and GE Verona joins the ranks of Chevron, Amazon, Aramco, Microsoft, Shell, and more.

“GE Vernova embodies what we’re looking for in a partner: energy transition expertise with a deep commitment and passion for innovation, collaboration, and decarbonization,” Greentown Labs CEO and President Kevin Knobloch says in a statement. “Equally important, the team at GE Vernova has a real sense of urgency to accelerate global decarbonization and is eager to engage with our community of climatetech startups—I can’t wait to see all that we’ll accomplish together.”

GE Vernova specializes in power, wind, and electrification while keeping decarbonization at the forefront of its business. The company opened itsglobal headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts just down the street from where Greentown got its start in 2011 and only a few miles from the incubator today.

“I am thrilled to join as a new partner with Greentown Labs and look to support the climatetech ecosystem in many different ways,” GE Vernova CEO Scott Strazik says in the news release. “Whether it’s innovating new technologies, the industrialization of products, or leveraging our relationships globally, we are eager to collaborate with this unique and important group of entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders.”

With the arrangement,Limor Spector, president of Ventures and Incubation at GE Vernova, will serve on the Industry Leadership Council.

Founded in 2022, GE Verona is expected to spin off from GE in the second quarter of next year.

Meet the six startups that will be working with Shell and Greentown Labs for the next six months. Photo via Greentown

Greentown Labs names 6 energy tech startups to Shell-backed accelerator

ready to go make

Greentown Labs has named the six participating climatetech startups for an accelerator for a global energy leader.

Shell and Greentown Labs announced the cohort for Greentown Go Make 2023 — a program designed to accelerate partnerships between startups and corporates to advance carbon utilization, storage, and traceability solutions. Shell, which invests in net-zero and carbon-removal technologies, is hoping to strategically align with startups within carbon utilization, storage, and traceability across the energy transition spectrum.

“At Greentown Labs we recognize and appreciate the role energy incumbents must play in the energy transition, and we’re eager to facilitate meaningful partnerships between these impressive startups and Shell—not only to advance these technologies but also to help Shell achieve its sustainability goals,” Kevin Knobloch, CEO and President of Greentown Labs, says in a news release. “We know carbon utilization, storage, and traceability will play a critical role in our collective efforts to reach net-zero, and we’re enthusiastic about the potential impact these companies can have in that work.”

The cohort, selected from 110 applications, is co-located at Greentown's Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, locations and includes:

  • Portland-based Caravel Bio is developing a novel synthetic biology platform that uses microbial spores and enzymes to create catalysts that are long-lasting and can withstand extreme conditions and environments.
  • Circularise, which is based in the Netherlands, is developing a blockchain platform that provides digital product passports for end-to-end traceability and secure data exchange for industrial supply chains.
  • Corumat, based in Washington, converts organic waste into high-performance, insulating, greaseproof, and biodegradable packaging materials.
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts-headquartered Lydian develops a fully electrified reactor that can convert a variety of gaseous, non-fossil feedstocks into pure syngas with high efficiency.
  • Maple Materials from Richmond, California is developing a low-cost electrolysis process to split carbon dioxide into graphite and oxygen.
  • Ontario, Canada-founded Universal Matter develops a proprietary Flash Joule Heating process that converts carbon waste into high-value and high-performance graphene materials to efficiently create sustainable circular economies.

The program, which includes $15,000 in non-dilutive stipend funding for each company, will work closely with Shell and Greentown over six months via mentorship, networking opportunities, educational workshops, and partnership-focused programming to support collaboration. Go Make 2023 concludes with a showcase event on March 27 at Greentown Labs’ Houston location.

This week, Shell announced another accelerator cohort it's participating in. The Shell GameChanger Accelerator, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), named four West Coast climatetech companies: DTE Materials, Hexas Biomass, Invizyne Technologies, and ZILA BioWorks. The program provides early-stage cleantech startups with access to experts and facilities to reduce technology development risk and accelerate commercialization of new cleaner technologies.

“Tackling the climate challenge requires multifaceted solutions. At Shell, we believe technology that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be essential for lowering emissions from energy and chemical products,” Yesim Jonsson, Shell’s GCxN program manager, says in a statement. “The companies in GCxN's sixth cohort embody these objectives and have the potential to usher in a more sustainable future.”

The DOE has deployed funding for direct air capture, events not to miss, and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

3 things to know this week: 2 energy appointments, DOE doubles down on funding, and more

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. The United States Department of Energy doled out some big money last week, two new energy innovation leaders to know, and an event not to miss this week.

DOE grants millions for carbon capture

A handful of direct air capture projects with ties to Houston just received federal funding. Photo via Getty Images

Last week, there were two different DOE funding stories on EnergyCapital — both about federal funding for direct air capture (DAC) projects.

A subsidiary of Houston-based energy company Occidental snagged a roughly $600 million federal grant to establish a hub south of Corpus Christi that’ll remove carbon emissions from the air. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations grant, awarded to Occidental subsidiary 1PointFive, will go toward building the South Texas Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hub. It’ll be located on about 106,000 leased acres within a Kleberg County site at the iconic King Ranch. The hub will comprise 30 individual DAC projects. Read more.

Around the same time, four carbon capture projects with ties to the Houston area were announced to have collectively received more than $10 million in funding from the DOE. Chevron, Fervo Energy, and more were involved in those grants. Read more.

HOU to know in energy transition

Two recent appointments were announced last week. Photos courtesy

Two Houston organizations looking to advance the energy transition named new leaders last week.

Activate named Jeremy Pitts as the Houston managing director this month. The nonprofit, which announced its new Houston program earlier this year, was founded in Berkeley, California, in 2015 to bridge the gap between the federal and public sectors to deploy capital and resources into the innovators creating transformative products. Pitts will lead the program locally, including working with the inaugural cohort, to be determined later this year for 2024. Read more.

After a months-long search, Greentown Labs named its next leader. Kevin Knobloch, who served as chief of staff of the United States Department of Energy in President Barack Obama’s second term, will be CEO of Greentown Labs, effective September 5. In his role, Knobloch will oversee both Greentown locations in Houston and Somerville, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. Read more.

Upcoming events to put on your radar

Plan the rest of your August accordingly.

This week:

  • August 22 — The 2nd Annual Renewable Energy Leadership Conference, hosted by Rice Business Executive Education, voices from leading renewable energy companies, the DOE, and capital providers will gather to discuss the impact the IRA has had on Houston and beyond, and what to expect going forward.
  • August 22-23 — SPE Energy Transition Symposium's goal is to deliver a prominent and dedicated energy transition event by collecting and disseminating the knowledge from industry leaders, technical experts, academicians, practitioners, financial community and ESG leaders, and together through collaboration, advance the conversations, technology and exchanges that will move our industry forward.

Later this month:

  • August 28-30 — Industrial IMMERSIVE Week attracts the most industrial, energy, and engineering tech professionals making investment, strategy and tactical decisions, or building, scaling and executing pioneering XR/3D/Simulations, digital twin, reality capture, edge /spatial computing, AI/ML, connected workforce & IIoT projects within their enterprise.
  • August 30-31 — Carbon & ESG Strategies Conference, presented by Hart Energy, will highlight carbon capture and storage projects and technologies onshore and offshore, direct air capture, enhanced oil recovery, responsibly sourced gas, renewable natural gas, federal funding challenges and insurance issues, ESG initiatives, regulatory concerns and much more.

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Houston startup taps new corporate partner for AI-backed sustainability consumer tech

out of the boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Houston software company to manage IRA compliance for solar, storage company with national presence

tapping into tech

Houston company's Inflation Reduction Act compliance management software has scored a new partner.

Empact Technologies announced a multi-year agreement with Ampliform, which originates, builds, develops, and operates utility-scale solar and solar plus storage projects. The Empact platform uses a combination of software and services to ensure projects meet IRS regulatory requirements, which focus on wage and apprenticeship, domestic content, and energy and low-income community incentives. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed

Empact will partner specifically with Ampliform’s project Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) firms, subcontractors, and key suppliers of steel and iron products. In addition, they will work through a project’s life cycle for EPC’s solar modules, trackers, and inverters to manage prevailing wage & apprenticeship, domestic content, and other tax incentive qualification and compliance.

“The team at Ampliform had the leadership and foresight to recognize the significant risks of IRA non-compliance and the need to have third party compliance management in place prior to construction kick-off," Charles Dauber, CEO and founder of Empact, says in a news release. We look forward to helping Ampliform fully leverage the IRA tax incentives to develop and build their project development pipeline.”

Ampliform has approximately 700MW of projects in short-term development. Ampliform also plans 3GW of projects in its development pipeline. Ampliform’s future expansion plans exceed more than 13GWdc in total. Empact will manage the IRA compliance for these projects. According to a Goldman Sachs report, the IRA is estimated to provide $1.2 trillion of incentives by 2032.

Guest column: Cold weather and electric vehicles — separating fact from fiction

EVs in winter

Winter range loss is fueling this season’s heated debate around the viability of electric vehicles, but some important context is needed. Gasoline cars, just like their electric counterparts, lose a significant amount of range in cold weather too.

According to the Department of Energy, the average internal combustion engine’s fuel economy is 15 percent lower at 20° Fahrenheit than it would be at 77° Fahrenheit, and can drop as much as 24 percent for short drives.

As the world grapples with the implications of climate change and shifts toward sustainable technologies, it's important to put the pros and cons of EVs and traditional gas vehicles in perspective. And while Houston isn't known as the coldest of climates, you still might want to review this information.

The Semantics of Energy Consumption Hide the Real Issue: Cost

First, let's talk about the language. When discussing gas vehicles in cold climates, the conversation often centers around "fuel efficiency." It sounds less threatening, doesn't it? But in reality, this is just a euphemism for range loss, something for which EVs are frequently criticized.

Why does that matter? Because for most drivers who travel less than 40 miles a day, what range loss really means is higher fueling costs. When a gas vehicle loses range, it costs a lot more than the same range loss in an EV. For example, at $3.50 a gallon, a car that gets 30 MPG in warm weather and costs $46.67 to go 400 miles suddenly costs $8.24 more to drive the same distance. By contrast, an EV plugging in at $0.13 per kWh usually costs $13 to go 400 miles and bumps up to a piddly $16.25 even if it loses 20 percent efficiency when the temperature drops.

Some EV models lose 40 percent in extreme cold. OK, tack on another $3. That still leaves almost $30 in the driver’s pocket. Over the course of a year, those savings pile up.

Let’s Call It What It Is: Fear Mongering

Any seismic shift in technology comes with consumer hesitancy and media skepticism. Remember when everyone was afraid to stand in front of microwaves and thought the waves would make the food unsafe to eat? Or how, just a decade or so back everyone was talking about how cell phones could spontaneously explode?

Fear of new technology is a natural psychological response and to be expected. But it takes the media machine to turn consumer hesitation into a frenzy. Any way you slice it, 2023 was one big platform for expressing fears around EVs. Headline-grabbing tales of EV woes often lacked context or understanding of the technology. In a highly partisan landscape where EVs have been dubbed liberal leftist technology, what should be seen as a miraculous pro-American, pro-clean-air, pro-energy independence, pro-cost saving advancement is getting a beating in the press. In this environment, every bit of “bad EV news” spirals out into an echo-chamber of confirmation bias.

For example, Tesla’s recent software update was hyped as a 2 million vehicle “recall” even though the software was updated over the air without a single car needing to leave the driveway. Hertz's recent decision to reduce its Tesla fleet was seen by many as a referendum on the cars’ quality but was actually a decision based on Hertz’s miscalculations around repair costs and a mismatch in their projections of consumer demand for EV rentals.

While the cost of repairs might be higher, maintenance and fuel costs are still much lower than gas vehicles. EVs are better daily-use cars than rentals because while our country’s public charging infrastructure is still lagging, home charging is a huge benefit of EV ownership. Instead, the Hertz move and the negative coverage are further spooking the public.

The Truth About EVs

Despite the challenges, it's crucial to acknowledge the environmental advantages of EVs. For instance, EVs produce zero direct emissions, which significantly reduces air pollution and greenhouse gasses. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EVs are far more energy efficient than gas-powered cars, converting more than 77 percent of electrical energy from the grid to power, compared to 12-30 percent for gasoline vehicles.

This efficiency translates to a cleaner, more sustainable mode of transportation. And stories of EVs stranded in Chicago aside, generally they perform well in cold weather, as clearly demonstrated in Norway. In Norway, the average temperature hovers a solid 10 degrees lower than in the U.S. Yet 93 percent of new cars sold there are electric. The first-ever drive from the north to the south pole was also completed by an electric vehicle. The success story of EVs in Norway and demonstration projects in harsh winter climates serve as a powerful counterargument to the notion that EVs are ineffective in cold weather.

So where does this leave us? The discourse around EVs and gasoline vehicles in cold weather needs a more balanced and factual approach. The range loss in gasoline vehicles is a significant issue that mirrors the challenges faced by EVs. By acknowledging this and understanding the broader context, we can have a more informed and equitable discussion about the future of automotive technology and its impact on our environment.

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Kate L. Harrison is the co-founder and head of marketing at MoveEV, an AI-backed EV transition company that helps organizations convert fleet and employee-owned gas vehicles to electric, and reimburse for charging at home.