The plant has the capacity to provide the city with over 400 million gallons of clean drinking water daily due to the state-of-the-art intake pump system located 900 feet from the shore of Lake Houston. Photo courtesy of the Mayor's Office

City of Houston takes step toward resiliency with $1.7B project milestone

resiliency on tap

A new project that will increase Houston's resilience in the face of climate change-driven storms has delivered.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Public Works and other water provider organizations celebrated the newly operational Northeast Water Purification Plant Expansion, which is the culmination of a $1.7 billion project.

The multi-year construction project began in 2017. The plant has the capacity to provide the city with over 400 million gallons of clean drinking water daily due to the state-of-the-art intake pump system located 900 feet from the shore of Lake Houston.

“Eight years ago, the city of Houston joined with four regional water authorities to invest over $1.7 billion to build what would become the largest public works water construction project in the nation,” Turner says in a news release. "The Northeast Water Purification Plant is an essential part of our city's infrastructure and growing resilience to the effects of climate change.”

The city of Houston partnered with the North Harris County Regional Water Authority, the West Harris County Regional Water Authority, the North Fort Bend Water Authority, the Central Harris County Regional Water Authority, the Texas Water Development Board, and many others. The Northeast Water Purification Plant is located in Humble, Texas.

Houston Public Works is responsible for, production and distribution of water, collection, and treatment of wastewater, and permitting and regulation of public and private construction, and streets and drainage.

“By increasing the City’s capacity to treat surface water and reducing dependence on groundwater, the project helps mitigate the risks associated with ground subsidence, such as increased flooding, damage to our roads, and other infrastructure issues,” Houston Public Works Director Carol Haddock says in a news release.

CenterPoint Energy and the Gulf Coast Community Services Association are now accepting applications for the new program. Photo via centerpointenergy.com

CenterPoint Energy, Mayor Turner join forces for $1M energy assistance for Houston residents

giving support

In the season of giving, a Houston energy company has played Santa Claus with a special deliver for underserved Houstonians.

CenterPoint Energy announced a $1 million contribution in Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s name towards energy bill assistance that assists low-income residents. The donation will go to a local nonprofit organization Gulf Coast Community Services Association, or GCCSA, which will manage and distribute the funds.

“Given Mayor Turner’s selfless commitment and outstanding service to our city for the past eight years, this felt like a fitting way to celebrate him and build upon his legacy of helping others across our communities,” CenterPoint Energy CEO Dave Lesar says in a news release. “Throughout his entire career in elected office, Mayor Turner always recognized the importance of supporting underserved neighborhoods and neighbors, and this contribution in his name will make a positive lasting impact.”

Today, December 4, GCCSA will begin accepting applications for energy assistance for low-income residents or families living in CenterPoint Energy’s service areas. Applicants can apply online.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve our great city for my eight years in office, “Turner says in a news release. “It also has been a privilege to collaborate with corporate leaders like CenterPoint Energy and impactful nonprofits like GCCSA to help the community members who need it most.

“I am deeply grateful for the countless partnerships and initiatives benefiting Houston during my incredible journey as mayor. Together, we were able to do great things.”

Earlier this summer, CenterPoint also donated $100,000 to Galveston residents by way of nonprofit Vision Galveston. The program was designed to reduce energy consumption and cut utility bills through projects like HVAC tune-ups, as well as installation of ceiling insulation, LED light bulbs, solar screens, and low-flow showerheads.

Need a RYDE? The city voted to provide funding to expand the electric vehicle initiative. Photo via Evolve Houston

City approves funding for EV rideshare service in underserved communities in Houston

ryde-ing in style

The city of Houston approved $281,000 funding for the expansion of free electric vehicle rideshare services in communities that are considered underserved by utilizing services like RYDE and Evolve Houston.

The funding will be dispersed to RYDE in through the nonprofit Evolve Houston.

“It’s exciting to see a Mayor and City Council get behind a true eco-friendly initiative aimed and providing critical transportation needs for underserved communities,” Evolve Houston President and Executive Director Casey Brown says in a news release. “The program has seen amazing success in the Third Ward and now another historically underserved community will be able to benefit from a service that gets residents to and from in-town destinations for free.”

Rideshare service RYDE has been operating in Houston’s Third Ward since June with almost 3,000 passengers per month being served. The services will expand beyond Third Ward through Houston Complete Communities, which is a citywide initiative to bring innovation and assistance to the city’s underserved communities.

The two new vehicles are expected to hit the road early December, as well as the continued service of two vehicles in Third Ward.

“The positive aspects of expanding RYDE’s EV transportation initiative beyond Third Ward are twofold,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in the release. “The environmental impact of the low-emission vehicles coupled with the vital service it provides to underserved neighborhoods makes this a win-win decision for the City of Houston and its residents who are faced with transportation challenges. This funding decision is in lockstep with Houston’s Climate Action Plan and the intention behind the Complete Communities initiative.”

Evolve Houston was founded in 2018 through Houston’s Climate Action Plan and relaunched last year. They recently released a Grant Tracker, which aims to make it easier to find funding opportunities, and assist with current grants available to organizations and individuals that are committed to a goal of zero emissions. The tracker serves as a tool to assist with purchasing an EV and charging equipment. Ultimately, Evolve wants to assist and fund those looking to make the transition to electric. Evolve continues to evolve its sphere of influence, the company still aims for equity, and its goal to have half of the vehicles in the city be electric by 2030.

“Houston maintains some of the lowest population density and longest commute distances of major U.S. cities and we have an immense amount of business and goods that flow through Houston,” Brown says. “ We see a landscape that can uniquely achieve larger financial and environmental benefits of EV technologies.”

"I am proud of the city that I shall pass forward." Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

In final State of the City speech, Houston mayor addresses resiliency, energy transition efforts

turner's legacy

For his eighth and final time, Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered the State of the City address last week, and he highlighted some of the gains within his tenure.

"We are greener, more compassionate, more united, and more forward-moving than we can ever imagine," says Mayor Turner. “What I can say to Houstonians is that I have given you my best, and I am proud of the city that I shall pass forward.”

At the event, which boasted a sold-out crowd of 1,500 Houstonians, Mayor turned announced some of the initiatives he's most proud of accomplishing and revealed release of “A Winning Legacy,” a book detailing his legacy.

“Together, we have faced many storms – seven federally declared disasters in eight years. From floods or a freeze, from a Super Bowl or the pandemic, we rose and met the challenges of our times,” says the mayor in his speech. “From inequities in neighborhoods investments to billions of dollars in pension unfunded liabilities, from One Safe Houston to One Clean Houston, we confronted each issue head on and set the city on firmer footing.”

Mayor Turner goes on to name the other storms that hit Houston during his tenure, and how resiliency and the energy transition became major themes of this office.

"We are the energy capital of the world," he says to the crowd. "We purchase more renewable energy than any other city in the United States. ... We lead the country in renewables."

In the address, Mayor Turner mentions his work on a project, announced last year, to convert a former landfill into a solar farm.

"The Sunnyside Solar Farm, which will be the largest urban solar farm in the country, will be operational by 2024," he says.

Mayor Turner wraps up his speech, which is available in its entirety on the city's YouTube page, with noting that he is leaving the next mayor — who will be decided in next month's election — with a $420 million surplus. When Mayor Turner was elected in 2015, the city had a $160 million deficit.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner celebrated the opening of the renovated City Hall basement that was damaged in Hurricane Harvey. Photo via houstontx.gov

Photos: City of Houston makes $4.4M facilities upgrades with sustainability, resiliency in mind

built for the future

Where some might see just a basement, Mayor Sylvester Turner sees an opportunity to tell a story of Houston's resiliency and dedication to sustainability.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, it left 18 to 20 inches of floodwaters in the basement of Houston City Hall. The city received funding from FEMA to support the $4.4 million renovation project that commenced in 2020. After facing challenges — including a defaulted contractor — the city revealed the new space this week, which was completed by contractor Dunhill Construction.

The basement includes 18 works of art that each are an "ode to Houston." Photo via houstontx.gov

"The City Hall Basement renovation is a testament to the resilient spirit of Houston," says Turner in the news release. "We encountered some challenges, but we've revitalized this space while preserving our history and embracing innovation. This space truly embodies our commitment to a sustainable future."

The new basement holds conference rooms, training facilities, and a wellness center that was donated by Cigna. The project was focused on implementing sustainability and efficiency and included replacing aging air handling units with more efficient technology, LED lighting equipped with sensors to avoid energy waste, and a sliding floodgate to prevent history from repeating itself should another storm hit Houston.

The new space includes training facilities.Photo via houstontx.gov

The project also incorporated 18 pieces of Houston-focused art by artists including Mark Chen, Syd Moen, Nancy Newberry, and David Reinfeld. The 49 Houston mayor portraits, which were rescued by a staffer during the storm, were conserved, reframed, and rehung.

The space will also be the home to Houston's first walk-in 311 center, per the release, and the 311’s Continuity of Operations Plan, or COOP, and will be a secondary location in case the main call center fails.

With the completion of the project, the city has a few more upgrades — including additional training facilities, the mayor's dining room, and kitchen — coming soon and set to be completed in November.

Cigna donated a wellness center as a part of the renovation. Photo via houstontx.gov

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Houston company expands JV to build new power generation, storage assets

team work

Houston-based Conduit Power is broadening the scope of its joint venture with Oklahoma City-based Riley Exploration Permian.

Under this deal, the joint venture, RPC Power, will build power generation and storage assets for the sale of energy and related services to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the power grid for the bulk of Texas.

RPC Power, established in March 2023, owns and operates power generation assets that use Riley Permian’s natural gas to power its oilfield operations in Yoakum County, located in West Texas.

The expanded relationship will enable RPC Power to sell power and related services to ERCOT, with plans for 100 megawatts of natural gas-fueled generation and battery energy storage systems across facilities in West Texas. The facilities are expected to start commercial operations in 2025.

In conjunction with the expanded scope, Riley Permian bumped up its stake in RPC Power from 35 percent to 50 percent. Furthermore, it plans to sell up to 10 million cubic feet per day of natural gas to RPC Power as feedstock supply for the new generation facilities.

"Our JV expansion at RPC Power represents a significant milestone for our company, and we are proud to build upon our successful partnership with Riley Permian,” Travis Windholz, managing director of Conduit, says in a news release.

Conduit, a portfolio company of private equity firm Grey Rock Investment Partners, designs, builds, and operates distributed power generation systems.

Riley Exploration Permian specializes in the exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas reserves, primarily within the Permian Basin.

Elon Musk sees more resistance against his multibillion dollar pay package

just say no

A second shareholder advisory firm has come out against reinstating a pay package for Tesla CEO Elon Musk that was voided earlier this year by a Delaware judge.

ISS late Thursday joined Glass Lewis in recommending against the package, recently valued by the company at $44.9 billion but in January had a value of about $56 billion.

Shareholders of the electric vehicle and solar panel company are voting on the package, with the results to be tabulated at Tesla's June 13 annual meeting.

ISS said in its recommendations on Tesla's proxy voting items that Musk's stock-based package was outsized when it was approved by shareholders in 2018, and it failed to accomplish board objectives voiced at that time.

The firm said that Tesla met the pay package’s performance objectives, and it recognized the company's substantial growth in size and profitability. But concerns about Musk spending too much time on other ventures that were raised in 2018 and since then have not been sufficiently addressed, ISS said.

“The grant, in many ways, failed to achieve the board’s other original objectives of focusing CEO Musk on the interests of Tesla shareholders, as opposed to other business endeavors, and aligning his financial interests more closely with those of Tesla stockholders,” ISS wrote.

Also, future concerns remain unaddressed, including a lack of clarity on Musk's future compensation and the potential for his pay to significantly dilute shareholder value, ISS wrote.

Musk plays big roles in his other ventures including SpaceX, Neuralink and the Boring Company. Last year he bought social media platform X and formed an artificial intelligence unit called xAI.

Last week the other prominent proxy advisory firm, Glass Lewis, also recommended against reinstating Musk's 2018 compensation package. The firm said the package would dilute shareholders' value by about 8.7%. The rationale for the package “does not in our view adequately consider dilution and its long-lasting effects on disinterested shareholders,” Glass Lewis wrote.

But in a proxy filing, Tesla said that Glass Lewis failed to consider that the 2018 award incentivized Musk to create over $735 billion in value for shareholders in the six years since it was approved.

“Tesla is one of the most successful enterprises of our time,” the filing said. “We have revolutionized the automotive market and become the first vertically integrated sustainable energy company."

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

Tesla asked shareholders to restore Musk's pay package after it was rejected by a Delaware judge this year. At the time, it also asked to shift the company’s legal corporate home to Texas.

Glass Lewis recommended against moving the legal corporate home to Texas, but ISS said it favored the move.

California’s public employee retirement system, which holds a stake in Tesla, said it has not made a final decision on how it will vote on Musk’s pay. But CEO Marcie Frost told CNBC that as of Wednesday, the system would not vote in favor. CalPERS, which opposed the package in 2018, said it will discuss the matter with Tesla “in the coming days.”

In January, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick ruled that Musk is not entitled to the landmark stock compensation that was to be granted over 10 years.

Ruling on a lawsuit from a shareholder, she voided the pay package, saying that Musk essentially controlled the board, making the process of enacting the compensation unfair to stakeholders. “Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla’s behalf,” she wrote in her ruling.

In a letter to shareholders released in a regulatory filing last month, Tesla Chairwoman 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. Shares at the time were up 571% 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% 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% of its workers go, about 14,000 people.

Things to know: $17.5B oil acquisition, new accelerator focuses on sustainability, and more 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 podcast episode with a biotech leader, a very big oil and gas deal, and events not to miss.


Big deal: ConocoPhillips to buy Marathon Oil for $17.B in all-stock deal

ConocoPhillips is buying Marathon Oil in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $17.1 billion as energy prices rise and big oil companies reap massive profits.

The deal to combine the two Houston-headquartered companies is valued at $22.5 billion when including $5.4 billion in debt.

Crude prices have jumped more than 12% this year and the cost for a barrel rose above $80 this week. Oil majors put up record profits after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and while those numbers have slipped, there has been a surge in mergers between energy companies flush with cash. Continue reading.

Podcast to stream: Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast

Bioindustrial technologies have a high potential for impacting sustainability — but they tend to need a little bit more help navigating the startup valley of death. That's where the BioWell comes in.

Carlos Estrada, head of Venture Acceleration at BioWell, says the idea for the accelerator was came to First Bight Ventures, a Houston-based biomanufacturing investment firm, as it began building its portfolio of promising companies.

"While we were looking at various companies, we found ourselves finding different needs that these startups have," Estrada says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's how the opportunity for the BioWell came about." Continue reading.

Events not to miss

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

  • 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.
  • Argus Clean Ammonia North America Conference will take place on June 12 to 14 at the Hyatt Regency Houston. Over the three days of the conference, explore the big questions many producers are facing around where demand is coming from, expect to hear perspectives from key domestic consumers as well as international demand centres for clean ammonia. 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.
  • Energy Underground (June) is a group of professionals in the Greater Houston area that are accelerating the Energy Transition that connect monthly at The Cannon - West Houston. Register now.