Tyler Lancaster, a Chicago-based investor with Energize Capital, shares his investment thesis and why Houston-based Amperon caught his eye. Photo courtesy of Energize Capital

One of the biggest challenges to the energy transition is finding the funds to fuel it. Tyler Lancaster, partner at Energize Capital, is playing a role in that.

Energize Capital, based in Chicago, is focused on disruptive software technology key to decarbonization. One of the firm's portfolio companies is Amperon, which raised $20 million last fall.

In an interview with EnergyCapital, Lancaster shares what he's focused on and why Amperon caught Energize Capital's attention.

EnergyCapital: Energize Capital has been investing in climate tech for the better part of a decade now. What types of companies are you looking for and how are these companies’ technologies affecting the greater energy transition?

Tyler Lancaster: We partner with best-in-class innovators to accelerate the sustainability transition. This means identifying climate technology companies at various stages of maturity — from early commercialization to approaching the public markets — that we can help scale and realize their full potential. We invest in software-first climate technology businesses, with a focus on asset-light digital solutions that can help scale sustainable innovation and enable the new energy economy. Our portfolio currently drives software applications across renewable energy, industrial operations, electrification & mobility, infrastructure resilience, and decarbonization. We primarily focus on proven, commercially available and economically viable energy transition solutions (solar, wind, batteries, heat pumps, etc.). These solutions suffer from challenges related to efficient deployment or operations, where enabling digital platforms can play a key role in optimizing costs.

EC: Amperon is one of Energize Capital's portfolio companies. What made the company a great investment opportunity for Energize Capital?

TL: Accelerating the energy transition will require critical forecasting tools like what Amperon provides. This is underscored by the escalating impact of extreme weather events, increasing penetration of variable energy resources, like wind and solar, on the supply side, and surging demand growth driven by flexible loads and rapid electrification. We believe the need for Amperon’s platform will only continue to grow, and their increased raise from Series A to Series B showed they are scaling smartly. We’ve also known Sean Kelly, Abe Stanway, and the entire Amperon team for a long time, and building strong relationships with founders is how we like to do business. Amperon has built a blue-chip customer base in the energy sector in a very capital efficient manner, which is more important than ever for startups operating in the current equity market environment.

EC: One of the energy transition’s biggest problems is sourcing and storing reliable and affordable energy. What have you observed are the biggest problems with Texas’ electricity grid and what types of new tech can help improve these issues?

TL: Today’s electricity grid and the demands we’re putting on it look very different than they ever have. Major changes in climate and extreme weather show how perilous and unreliable the power grids in this country are, particularly in regions like Texas that don’t have the right infrastructure to shield grids from unusual temperatures — just look at the damage done by 2021’s historic Winter Storm Uri. And consumer demand for electricity is increasing as electrification accelerates globally. The makeup of the grid itself is shifting from centralized power plants to distributed clean energy assets like solar arrays and wind turbines, which brings issues of intermittent electricity production and no traditional way to forecast that.

Tech solutions like Amperon are the only way to navigate the nuances of the energy transition. With global net-zero goals and impending Scope II accounting, Amperon’s expertise in granular data management further enables companies to build accurate, dynamic forecasting models with smart meter data and get more visibility into anticipated market shifts so they can optimize their energy use — all of which helps to create a more resilient and reliable power grid.

EC: You are also on the board of the company, which recently announced a collaboration with Microsoft’s tech. What doors does this open for Amperon?

TL: Partnering with Microsoft and offering its energy demand forecasting solution on the Azure platform enables Amperon to better serve more companies that are navigating the energy transition and a rapidly evolving grid. Many power sector companies are also undergoing cloud migrations with Microsoft Azure having high market share. This partnership will specifically accelerate Amperon’s reach with utility customers, who typically have slower sales cycles but can greatly benefit from improved accuracy in energy demand forecasting and adoption of AI technologies.

EC: As a non-Texas investor, how do you see Houston and Texas-based companies’ investability? Has it changed over the years?

TL: While most tech startups are concentrated on the coasts and in Europe, we see Texas emerging as a hub for energy and climate focused startups due to its vicinity to energy giants, which represent potential customers. Texas leads the country in renewable energy production and sits at the forefront of the transition. Energy companies based in this region are relying on technology innovation and software tools to modernize operations and meet the evolving demands of their customers.


This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Will Tope, chief commercial officer of LiNa Energy, joined the Energy Tech Startups podcast to discuss the company's unique technology and growth plans. Photo via LinkedIn

Energy startup exec unveils breakthrough battery chemistry to revolutionize energy storage solutions


In a world striving for sustainable and efficient energy solutions, United Kingdom-based LiNa Energy emerges as a promising player in the field of advanced battery technologies.

With a focus on overcoming the limitations of traditional lithium-ion batteries, LiNa Energy — a member of the 2023 cohort for Houston-based incubator, Halliburton Labs — presents a unique chemistry that holds the potential to revolutionize energy storage.

In a recent episode of Energy Tech Startups with Will Tope, chief commercial officer of LiNa Energy, we delve into the key aspects of LiNa Energy's technology, exploring the challenges they seek to address and their plans for commercialization.

Energy Tech Startups: What is the main problem that LiNa Energy is trying to solve with their battery technology?

Will Tope: LiNa Energy is driven by a pressing dilemma in today's storage landscape: the limited efficiency and high costs associated with existing storage technologies. They aim to bridge the gap, providing low-cost, long-duration energy storage solutions that can effectively accommodate the increasing penetration of renewable energy sources in power grids worldwide. By addressing this critical need, LiNa Energy aims to unlock the full potential of low-cost, low-carbon electrons for global energy consumption patterns.

ETS: How does LiNa Energy's battery technology differ from traditional lithium-ion batteries?

WT: LiNa Energy's technology distinguishes itself through its unique chemistry and progressive use of ceramics. By combining a stable sodium-based chemistry, developed in the 1970s, with advancements in ceramics from the fuel cell industry, LiNa Energy maximizes safety, heat management, and energy density. Their battery cells feature thin planar ceramic electrolytes, enabling cost-efficient automated manufacturing and reducing the need for extensive thermal management systems. This streamlined approach offers both enhanced performance and cost-effectiveness.

ETS: What are the commercialization plans and target markets for LiNa Energy?

WT: LiNa Energy strategically targets markets with high solar potential, such as India, where the demand for storage solutions arises due to the growing deployment of renewables and the need to shift energy to peak demand periods. LiNa Energy aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of their systems through pilot projects at distribution scale by the end of the year. Leveraging partnerships and strong relationships with key players in the energy industry, LiNa Energy envisions gradual growth in manufacturing capacity worldwide. By offering competitive pricing, they aim to disrupt the market and drive widespread adoption of their innovative battery technology.

As the energy landscape continues to evolve, LiNa Energy's pursuit of affordable, long-duration energy storage technology stands out as a potential game-changer. With their unique chemistry, ceramic advancements, and focus on commercialization in markets with enormous renewable energy potential, LiNa Energy demonstrates a commitment to addressing the world's energy challenges. By challenging the status quo of traditional energy storage systems, LiNa Energy paves the way for a future where efficient and sustainable energy solutions become the norm.


This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click here to listen to the full episode.

Digital Wildcatters is a Houston-based media platform and podcast network, which is home to the Energy Tech Startups podcast.

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3 Houston sustainability startups score prizes at Rice University pitch competition

seeing green

A group of Rice University student-founded companies shared $100,000 of cash prizes at an annual startup competition — and three of those winning companies are focused on sustainable solutions.

Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship's H. Albert Napier Rice Launch Challenge, hosted by Rice earlier this month, named its winners for 2024. HEXASpec, a company that's created a new material to improve heat management for the semiconductor industry, won the top prize and $50,000 cash.

Founded by Rice Ph.D. candidates Tianshu Zhai and Chen-Yang Lin, who are a part of Lilie’s 2024 Innovation Fellows program, HEXASpec is improving efficiency and sustainability within the semiconductor industry, which usually consumes millions of gallons of water used to cool data centers. According to Rice's news release, HEXASpec's "next-generation chip packaging offer 20 times higher thermal conductivity and improved protection performance, cooling the chips faster and reducing the operational surface temperature."

A few other sustainability-focused startups won prizes, too. CoFlux Purification, a company that has a technology that breaks down PFAS using a novel absorbent for chemical-free water, won second place and $25,000, as well as the Audience Choice Award, which came with an additional $2,000.

Solidec, a company that's working on a platform to produce chemicals from captured carbon, and HEXASpec won Outstanding Achievement in Climate Solutions Prizes, which came with $1,000.

The NRLC, open to Rice students, is Lilie's hallmark event. Last year's winner was fashion tech startup, Goldie.

“We are the home of everything entrepreneurship, innovation and research commercialization for the entire Rice student, faculty and alumni communities,” Kyle Judah, executive director at Lilie, says in a news release. “We’re a place for you to immerse yourself in a problem you care about, to experiment, to try and fail and keep trying and trying and trying again amongst a community of fellow rebels, coloring outside the lines of convention."

This year, the competition started with 100 student venture teams before being whittled down to the final five at the championship. The program is supported by Lilie’s mentor team, Frank Liu and the Liu Family Foundation, Rice Business, Rice’s Office of Innovation, and other donors

“The heart and soul of what we’re doing to really take it to the next level with entrepreneurship here at Rice is this fantastic team,” Peter Rodriguez, dean of Rice Business, adds. “And they’re doing an outstanding job every year, reaching further, bringing in more students. My understanding is we had more than 100 teams submit applications. It’s an extraordinarily high number. It tells you a lot about what we have at Rice and what this team has been cooking and making happen here at Rice for a long, long time.”


This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

ExxonMobil's $60B acquisition gets FTC clearance — with one condition

M&A moves

ExxonMobil's $60 billion deal to buy Pioneer Natural Resources on Thursday received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission, but the former CEO of Pioneer was barred from joining the new company's board of directors.

The FTC said Thursday that Scott Sheffield, who founded Pioneer in 1997, colluded with OPEC and OPEC+ to potentially raise crude oil prices. Sheffield retired from the company in 2016, but he returned as president and CEO in 2019, served as CEO from 2021 to 2023, and continues to serve on the board. Since Jan. 1, he has served as special adviser to the company’s chief executive.

“Through public statements, text messages, in-person meetings, WhatsApp conversations and other communications while at Pioneer, Sheffield sought to align oil production across the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico with OPEC+,” according to the FTC. It proposed a consent order that Exxon won't appoint any Pioneer employee, with a few exceptions, to its board.

Dallas-based Pioneer said in a statement it disagreed with the allegations but would not impede closing of the merger, which was announced in October 2023.

“Sheffield and Pioneer believe that the FTC’s complaint reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the U.S. and global oil markets and misreads the nature and intent of Mr. Sheffield’s actions,” the company said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was “disappointing that FTC is making the same mistake they made 25 years ago when I warned about the Exxon and Mobil merger in 1999.”

Schumer and 22 other Democratic senators had urged the FTC to investigate the deal and a separate merger between Chevron and Hess, saying they could lead to higher prices, hurt competition and force families to pay more at the pump.

The deal with Pioneer vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian Basin, a huge oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.