Next year, Gastech returns to Houston for the first time since 2019. Photo via Gastech Event/LinkedIn

In one year, a global energy industry event will make its return to Houston.

Gastech, billed as the world’s largest exhibition and conference for the natural gas, LNG, hydrogen, low carbon solutions, and climate technologies, will take place in Houston September 17 to 20, 2024, according to the organizer, dmg events. It'll be the first time the event takes place in Houston since 2019.

“Gastech is a global event that draws tens of thousands of attendees and millions of dollars in economic impact to its host city, and we are incredibly excited to have in Houston," Michael Heckman, president and CEO of Houston First Corp., says in a press release.

"The conversation around the future of the energy industry is a different one today than it was just five years ago when Gastech was last here," he continues. "We believe the role Houston is playing in leading the energy transition to a low carbon future makes this an ideal place to host this important global event and we look forward to expanding on the success we had in 2019 when Gastech returns next year.”

Gastech 2023 concluded in Singapore last week. According to the organization, the event attracted 750 exhibiting companies and 44,957 attendees.

"Houston used to be known as an oil and gas capital. But we realised early on that it was important to be the energy capital," Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, says in the release. "On behalf of everyone in the city of Houston, we want you to know that everything really is bigger in Texas. Singapore has set a high bar, but we are going to raise the bar even higher in Houston – it will be a great conference.”

Expecting a similar crowd of over 40,000 attendees and 800 exhibitors, the conference, supported by Houston First and the Bilateral Chamber, will take place at George R Brown Convention Center and will set up 20 country pavilions showcasing international companies, per the release. While the agenda for the event has not been announced, programming will focus on the biggest energy industry trends, net zero strategy, next-generation energy solutions, project funding, energy transition, and more.

“Energy has been the foundation of what the city of Houston has stood for," Andy Icken, chief development officer for Houston, says in the release. "We have in Houston over 300 energy companies today and they will welcome you to our city.”

The improvements are expected to reduce emissions by 241,000 metric tons a year and save over $54 million by 2043. Photo courtesy of NRG

NRG Park announces historic complex-wide sustainability project

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A Houston organization has announced a major energy efficiency and sustainability project that, in 20 years, will end up paying for itself with the savings alone.

The project is a collaboration between Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation (HCSCC), NRG Park, and Harris County. The 20-year savings of the improvements are estimated to generate more than $54 million.

"We remain committed to maintaining NRG Park's distinct position as a part of the fabric of our community and a landmark for visitors globally," Ryan Walsh, CEO and executive director of HCSCC and NRG Park, says in a news release. "These enhancements allow us to maintain our reputation for excellence and continue to deliver the best fan experiences, while exploring innovative and financially responsible approaches to sustainability."

The project, according to the news release, is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 241,000 metric tons a year. The plan includes: upgrades to HVAC equipment, building automation systems, water conservation, life safety systems and lighting improvements, and the high-efficiency chiller system.

The teams from Johnson Controls and NRG celebrated the partnership earlier this summer. Photo courtesy of Johnson Controls

Additionally, the park will integrate a system from Johnson Controls — OpenBlue Central Utility Plant — and the company will continue to measure and track results through an ongoing service agreement.

"Our partnership with Harris County and HCSCC's team to guide the enhancement initiative at NRG Park is paving the way for more sustainable practices across the sports and entertainment sector," Julie Brandt, president of Building Solutions North America at Johnson Controls, says in a statement. "We look forward to seeing how this project will inspire other industry leaders and drive smart savings and significant emissions reduction, not only in Harris County but on a national scale."

NRG Park, comprised of NRG Center, NRG Stadium and NRG Arena, is home to the annual 20-day Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the NFL Houston Texans. The 350-acre complex will also host the College Football Playoff Championship, the FIFA World Cup, and more than 500 other events this year.

"NRG Park is a premier destination that welcomes more than 5.5 million people annually," says Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 1, in the release. "These enhancements will create a more enjoyable and resilient environment for people traveling from near and far to attend the multitude of events hosted there."

It's not the first time NRG has invested in energy efficiency. In 2014, NRG Stadium became the first professional football stadium in the country with LED lights, Elizabeth Killinger, executive vice president of NRG Retail, said at the time. NRG also became the first professional sports stadium in Texas to install solar panels. At the time, the organization also announced electric vehicle charging stations.

Earlier this year, the Houston Texans announced a sustainability project of their own. In partnership with 1PointFive, the Texans’ Preferred Carbon Removal Partner, the team launched the Touchdown for Trees program the Touchdown for Trees program to recapture carbon emissions. For every touchdown scored by the Texans in the 2022, 2023, and 2024 seasons, the team pledges to plant 1.5 trees in the greater Houston area.

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Chevron, TotalEnergies back energy storage startup's $15.8M series A

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A California startup that's revolutionizing polymer cathode battery technology has announced its series A round of funding with support from Houston-based energy transition leaders.

LiNova Energy Inc. closed a $15.8 million series A round led by Catalus Capital. Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies, which has its US HQ in Houston, and Houston-based Chevron Technology Ventures, also participated in the round with a coalition of other investors.

LiNova will use the funds with its polymer cathode battery to advance the energy storage landscape, according to the company. The company uses a high-energy polymer battery technology that is designed to allow material replacement of the traditional cathode that is made up of cobalt, nickel, and other materials.

The joint development agreement with Saft will have them collaborate to develop the battery technology for commercialization in Saft's key markets.

“We are proud to collaborate with LiNova in scaling up its technology, leveraging the extensive experience of Saft's research teams, our newest prototype lines, and our industrial expertise in battery cell production," Cedric Duclos, CEO of Saft, says in a news release.

CTV recently announced its $500 million Future Energy Fund III, which aims to lead on emerging mobility, energy decentralization, industrial decarbonization, and the growing circular economy. Chevron has promised to spend $10 billion on lower carbon energy investments and projects by 2028.

Houston innovation leaders secure SBA funding to start equitability-focused energy lab

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A group of Houston's innovation and energy leaders teamed up to establish an initiative supporting equitability in the energy transition.

Impact Hub Houston, a nonprofit incubator and ecosystem builder, partnered with Energy Tech Nexus to establish the Equitable Energy Transition Alliance and Lab to accelerate startup pilots for underserved communities. The initiative announced that it's won the 2024 U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, or GAFC, Stage One award.

"We are incredibly honored to be recognized by the SBA alongside our esteemed partners at Energy Tech Nexus," Grace Rodriguez, co-founder and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, says in a news release. "This award validates our shared commitment to building a robust innovation ecosystem in Houston, especially for solutions that advance the Sustainable Development Goals at the critical intersections of industry, innovation, sustainability, and reducing inequality."

The GAFC award, which honors and supports small business research and development, provides $50,000 prize to its winners. The Houston collaboration aligns with the program's theme area of Sustainability and Biotechnology.

“This award offers us a great opportunity to amplify the innovations of Houston’s clean energy and decarbonization pioneers,” adds Juliana Garaizar, founding partner of the Energy Tech Nexus. “By combining Impact Hub Houston’s entrepreneurial resources with Energy Tech Nexus’ deep industry expertise, we can create a truly transformative force for positive change.”

Per the release, Impact Hub Houston and Energy Tech Nexus will use the funding to recruit new partners, strengthen existing alliances, and host impactful events and programs to help sustainable startups access pilots, contracts, and capital to grow.

"SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One winners join the SBA’s incredible network of entrepreneurial support organizations contributing to America’s innovative startup ecosystem, ensuring the next generation of science and technology-based innovations scale into thriving businesses," says U.S. SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

Texas-based Tesla gets China's initial approval of self-driving software

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Shares of Tesla stock rallied Monday after the electric vehicle maker's CEO, Elon Musk, paid a surprise visit to Beijing over the weekend and reportedly won tentative approval for its driving software.

Musk met with a senior government official in the Chinese capital Sunday, just as the nation’s carmakers are showing off their latest electric vehicle models at the Beijing auto show.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources familiar with the matter, Chinese officials told Tesla that Beijing has tentatively approved the automaker's plan to launch its “Full Self-Driving,” or FSD, software feature in the country.

Although it's called FSD, the software still requires human supervision. On Friday the U.S. government’s auto safety agency said it is investigating whether last year’s recall of Tesla’s Autopilot driving system did enough to make sure drivers pay attention to the road. Tesla has reported 20 more crashes involving Autopilot since the recall, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In afternoon trading, shares in Tesla Inc., which is based in Austin, Texas, surged to end Monday up more than 15% — its biggest one-day jump since February 2020. For the year to date, shares are still down 22%.

Tesla has been contending with its stock slide and slowing production. Last week, the company said its first-quarter net income plunged by more than half, but it touted a newer, cheaper car and a fully autonomous robotaxi as catalysts for future growth.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the news about the Chinese approval a “home run” for Tesla and maintained his “Outperform” rating on the stock.

“We note Tesla has stored all data collected by its Chinese fleet in Shanghai since 2021 as required by regulators in Beijing,” Ives wrote in a note to investors. “If Musk is able to obtain approval from Beijing to transfer data collected in China abroad this would be pivotal around the acceleration of training its algorithms for its autonomous technology globally.”