Here's how Direct Energy hopes to grow its renewable energy clientbase. Photo via Getty Images

It pays to be a responsible energy consumer.

Direct Energy will be offering two-years of Amazon Prime for its new customers. The On Us promotion is part of an ongoing partnership with Amazon since 2018, and will include a fixed-rate electricity plan or a fixed-rate electricity plan with free nights or free weekends, and will be 100 percent renewable.

The On Us electricity suite will include free electricity between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., free power from Friday night at 6 p.m. until midnight on Sunday, and a fixed rate for 24 months. Customers who already have Amazon Prime will receive a $15 gift card. The plan incentivizes new customers to join and receive the Prime membership, which is a $139 value.

“With this newest offer, Direct Energy makes it easy and seamless for customers to find the right electricity plan for their needs, with the added savings, convenience, and entertainment with Amazon Prime—all in a single membership,” Britany Keller, marketing lead at Direct Energy, says in a news release.

“Our customers can begin enjoying Prime membership as quickly as a day after they start service on an eligible plan with Direct Energy," she continues. "We are thrilled to continue to bring our customers new ways to enjoy Amazon Prime through our suite of ‘On Us’ plans.”

Direct Energy reports that it utilizes renewable energy from green sources like wind, geothermal, hydro, and solar energy to help reduce the carbon footprint.

Originally founded in Canada, Direct Energy is a subsidiary of Houston-based NRG Energy, which has recently announced its own sustainability advancements to NRG Park.

Companies like ExxonMobil, NRG, and Shell play an important role in helping the world transition to renewable energy sources. Photo via htxenergytransition.org

3 Houston companies leading the way towards a low-carbon future

the view from heti

As the world population makes a jump towards more than 9 billion people by 2050, the race to net-zero is more important than ever. An increase in population means an increase in the demand for energy. With everything from greenhouse gases, pollution, carbon and nitrogen deposition putting a strain on planet Earth, community and business leaders are making commitments to advance the energy transition.

Companies like ExxonMobil, NRG, and Shell play an important role in helping the world transition to renewable energy sources. Here are three ways that these energy companies are working towards an energy abundant, low-carbon future.

NRG Energy

Headquarted in Houston, NRG Energy is the leading integrated power company in the U.S. In 2022, NRG introduced a new Sustainability and Resiliency Impact Study as part of Harris County’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The initiative includes $34 million in park upgrades and is expected to save $54 million.

That same year, Evolve Houston, a nonprofit working to accelerate electric vehicle adoption within the Greater Houston area, launched an e-mobility microgrant initiative funded by Evolve Corporate Catalysts, General Motors and bp. With five founding members, among them being NRG Energy and Shell, the goal of the initiative is to improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Greater Houston area.

At the top of 2023, Reliant Energy and NRG launched the Simple Solar Sell Back electricity plan for Texans aimed at providing solar panels to local homes for lower electricity bills.

Shell

On a mission to improve their own operations, Shell is addressing energy efficiency over time and capturing or offsetting unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Headquartered in London. Shell is on a mission to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050. In 2022, the British multinational company invested $6 million to create the Prairie View A&M Shell Nature-Based Solutions Research Program, funded through the company’s Projects & Technology organization dedicated to funding research to develop new technology solutions.

In March of 2022, Shell gifted the University of Houston $10 million to bolster the institution’s efforts to establish the Energy Transition Institute which focuses on the production and use of reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for all. The company also launched the residential power brand Shell Energy offering 100% renewable electricity plans.

ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil is one of the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas companies. In 2021, the multinational oil and gas corporation pledged to invest more than $15 million in solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions initiatives across six years. As a part of their approach to improve air quality, ExxonMobil is working to:

  • Understand the composition and extent of our emissions
  • Meet or exceed environmental regulations
  • Reduce air emissions to minimize potential impacts on local communities
  • Monitor the science and health standards related to air quality

Throughout the years, plastics have become an essential component of products, packaging, construction, transportation, electronics and more. While plastics are durable, lightweight and cheap, they also emit 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Late last year, the major corporation announced the successful startup of one of the largest advanced recycling facilities in North America. Located in Baytown, Texas, the recycling facility uses proprietary technology to break down raw materials for new products and is expected to have nearly 1 billion pounds of annual advanced recycling capacity by the end of 2026.

According to their 2023 Advancing Climate Action Progress Report released early this year, the corporation plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 2030.

From resolving power grid issues to developing renewable energy technologies, Houston energy companies are powering today to empower the future.

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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.

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Houston organization celebrates zero waste goal

earth day win

Discovery Green celebrated Earth Day with a major milestone this year — achieving it’s Zero Waste goal.

The nonprofit, along with Citizens’ Environmental Coalition and Houston Public Works, are announced that the 2024 Green Mountain Energy Earth Day, which generated more than 3,800 pounds of garbage, diverted the majority of that waste from landfills. "Zero Waste," as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, is successfully diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill.

On Earth Day, Discovery Green composted 2,200 pounds of waste and recycled 1,300 pounds of trash.

“Part of Discovery Green Conservancy’s mission is to serve as a village green for our city and be a source of health and happiness for all. Our goal is to sustain an exceptional environment for nature and people,” Discover Green President Kathryn Lott says in a news release. “We are beyond thrilled to have achieved Zero Waste certification.”

The achievement was made possible by volunteers from the University of Houston – Downtown.

Steve Stelzer, president of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition’s board of directors, acknowledged how rare the achievement is in a public space in a major city like Houston.

“Discovery Green Conservancy stepped up and made a commitment to weigh, measure and record everything. They should be congratulated to have done this at this scale,” Stelzer adds. “The Conservancy said they were going to do it and they did. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The 2024 event included:

  • 31,000 visitors in attendance
  • 60 + exhibitors
  • 100 + volunteers
  • 12 artists
    • 9 chalk artists
    • Donkeeboy and Donkeemom
    • Mark Bradford
  • 25 Mark Bradford artworks made of scrap presented in partnership with Houston First
  • 4 short films shown
  • 3,836.7 pounds of waste collected during Green Mountain Energy Earth Day

Texas hydrogen research hub opens to support statewide, DOE-backed initiative

hi to hydrogen

A Texas school has cut the ribbon on a new hydrogen-focused research facility that will play a role in a statewide, Department of Energy-funded energy transition initiative.

The Center for Electromechanics at The University of Texas, Frontier Energy, Inc., and GTI Energy celebrated the grand opening of a hydrogen research and demonstration facility in Austin as part of the “Demonstration and Framework for H2@Scale in Texas and Beyond” project, which is supported by the DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

The hydrogen proto-hub is first-of-its-kind and part of Texas-wide initiative for a cleaner hydrogen economy and will feature contributions from organizations throughout the state. The facility will generate zero-carbon hydrogen by using water electrolysis powered by solar and wind energy, and steam methane reformation of renewable natural gas from a Texas landfill.

The hydrogen will be used to power a stationary fuel cell for power for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and it will also supply zero-emission fuel to cell drones and a fleet of Toyota Mirai fuel cell electric vehicles. This method will mark the first time that multiple renewable hydrogen supplies and uses have been networked at one location to show an economical hydrogen ecosystem that is scalable.

“The H2@Scale in Texas project builds on nearly two decades of UT leadership in hydrogen research and development” Michael Lewis, Research Scientist, UT Austin Center for Electromechanics, say in a news release. “With this facility, we aim to provide the educated workforce and the engineering data needed for success. Beyond the current project, the hydrogen research facility is well-positioned for growth and impact in the emerging clean hydrogen industry.”

Over 20 sponsors and industry stakeholders are involved and include Houston-based partners in Center for Houston’s Future and Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy. Industry heavyweights like Chevron, Toyota, ConocoPhillips, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are also part of the effort.

Texas hydrogen infrastructure and wind and solar resources position the state for clean hydrogen production, as evident in the recently released study, “A Framework for Hydrogen in Texas.” The study was part of a larger effort that started in 2020 with the H2@Scale project, which aims to develop clearer paths to renewable hydrogen as a “clean and cost-effective fuel” according to a news release. The facility will serve as an academic research center, and a model for future large-scale hydrogen deployments.

Participants in the DOE-funded HyVelocity Gulf Coast Hydrogen Hub will aim to gain insights from the H2@Scale project at UT Austin. The project will build towards a development of a comprehensive hydrogen network across the region. HyVelocity is a hub that includes AES Corporation, Air Liquide, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Mitsubishi Power Americas, Orsted, and Sempra Infrastructure. The GTI Energy administered HyVelocity involves The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for Houston’s Future, and Houston Advanced Research Center.

“H2@Scale isn't just about producing low-carbon energy, it's about creating clean energy growth opportunities for communities throughout Texas and the nation,” Adam Walburger, president of Frontier Energy, says in a news release. “By harnessing renewable energy resources to create zero-carbon hydrogen, we can power homes, businesses, transportation, and agriculture – all while creating jobs and reducing emissions.”

Houston organization rolls out new accelerator to support companies tackling 'pressing global challenges'

CALLING FOR APPLICANTS

A Houston organization — freshly funded by a $700,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration’s “Build to Scale” grant — is seeking its first accelerator cohort of industrial biology startups.

Founded by Houston-based First Bight Ventures, the BioWell has launched a virtual accelerator program that will provide programming, networking, mentorship, and financial resources to its inaugural cohort of 10 bioindustrial startups. The selected companies will also have access to specialized pilot bioproduction infrastructure throughout the nine-month program.

“BioWell equips startups with more than just capital. We provide a foundation for breakthrough innovations by combining access to cutting-edge bioproduction facilities with expertise that nurtures scalability. This comprehensive support is crucial for transforming pioneering ideas into market-ready solutions that can address pressing global challenges,” Carlos Estrada, head of venture acceleration at BioWell, says in a news release.

Applications for the program are open until May 15, and the cohort will be announced in June. Specifically, BioWell is seeking seed or pre-seed startup applicants that have a technology readiness level of 3 to 5, focusing on areas including low-cost and sustainable feedstocks, commercially viable yields, and purpose fit microbes.

“During our selection process, we'll prioritize startups that demonstrate a commitment to not only hitting milestones but also to building sustainable revenue streams for long-term survival. This phase necessitates keen awareness of market dynamics, customer demands, and sound financial management,” adds First Bight Ventures and BioWell Founder Veronica Wu.

In December, BioWell secured $741,925 of the $53 million doled out as a part of the "Build to Scale" Grant program that the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has established. First Bight was one of 60 organizations to receive funding.

Ex-Apple exec Wu founded First Bight Ventures in Houston in 2022 after relocating from Silicon Valley and seeing the region's potential for biotech.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.