The deadline to apply to participate in an upcoming energy-focused event is approaching. Photo courtesy of Rice

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Energy Tech Venture Day, a one-day symposium for energy innovation put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship. The organization is currently calling for applications for startups interested in participating.

The event is taking place on September 21 at Rice University and will bring together energy innovators, investors, corporate leaders, and the rest of the energy ecosystem. The programming will include panels and discussions as well as startup pitches from the Rice Alliance's Clean Energy Accelerator 2023 cohort.

In addition to the CEA pitches, energy tech startups from around the world can apply to be a part of the day and be in the running to be recognized as a select group as the "most-promising" at the conclusion of the pitches. Applications can be filled out online and are due July 14. Registration is also open online.

According to Rice, 90 or so companies will be selected to participate in one-on-one meetings with around 75 investors. The organization conducts a unique matchmaking round that pairs up investors and founders for four to 10 of these office hour meetings which will take place the day before the main event.

On the day of the Energy Tech Venture Day, around 40 companies will pitch to the rest of the crowd. At the end of the day and based off the investor feedback from the one-on-one meetings, 10 energy tech startups will be deemed the most-promising businesses and be presented with awards.

Last year, over a third of the companies that pitched were based in the Houston area. Two Houston-based companies received awards at the end of the day, including:

  • Kanin Energy, which works with heavy Industry to turn their waste heat into a clean baseload power source. The platform also provides tools such as project development, financing, and operations.
  • Syzygy Plasmonics, which is commercializing its light-reacting energy, which would greatly reduce carbon emissions in the chemical industry. The technology originated out of Rice University.
Kanin Energy set up shop in Greentown Labs last year to grow its impact on the energy transition. Photo via Getty Images

This energy transition startup taps Houston to grow, build its waste-heat-to-power tech

eyes on hou

Waste heat is everywhere, but in Houston, the Energy Capital of the World, it is becoming a hot commodity. What is it? Janice Tran, CEO of Kanin Energy, uses the example of turning ore into steel.

“There’s a lot of heat involved in that chemical process,” she says. “It’s a waste of energy.”

But Kanin Energy can do something about that. Its waste-heat-to-power, or WHP, concept uses a technology called organic rankine cycle. Tran explains that heat drives a turbine that generates electricity.

“It’s a very similar concept to a steam engine,” she says. Tran adds that the best term for what Kanin Energy does is “waste heat recovery.”

Emission-free power should be its own virtuous goal, but for companies creating waste heat, it can be an expensive endeavor both in terms of capital and human resources to work on energy transition solutions. But Kanin Energy helps companies to decarbonize with no cost to them.

“We can pay for the projects, then we pay the customers for that heat. We turn a waste product into a revenue stream for our customer,” Tran explains. Kanin Energy then sells the clean power back to the facility or to the grid, hence decarbonizing the facility gratis. Financing, construction, and operations are all part of the package.

Kanin Energy began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020.

“We started like a lotus. A lotus grows in mud — you start in the worst conditions and everything is better and easier from there,” says Tran.

That tough birth has helped provide the team with a discipline and thoughtfulness that’s been key to the company’s culture. Remote work has forced the team to get procedures clearly in place and react efficiently.

Back in May of 2020, its inception took place in Calgary. But the team, which also includes CDO Dan Fipke and CTO Jake Bainbridge, began to notice that many of their customers were either based in Houston or had Houston ties.

A year ago, the Kanin team visited Houston to see if the city could be a fit for an office. In July of 2022, Tran opened Kanin Energy offices in Greentown Labs.

“We’re hiring and building our team office out of Greentown. It’s been really great for us,” she says.

With the company now in its commercialization stage, Tran says that becoming part of the Houston energy ecosystem has been invaluable for Kanin.

The investments being made in climate tech and in energy transition make Space City the right place for the company. For Canadian-born Kanin Energy, Houston is now home. Investors across the nation, including Texas, are now helping Kanin to blossom, much like the lotus.

Janice Tran is the CEO and co-founder of Kanin Energy. Photo via LinkedIn

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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Houston initiative selected for DOE program developing hubs for clean energy innovation

community focus

Houston has been selected as one of the hubs backed by a new program from the United States Department of Energy that's developing communities for clean energy innovation.

The DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the the first phase of winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters, or EPIC, Round 3. The local initiative is one of 23 incubators and accelerators that was awarded $150,000 to support programming for energy startups and entrepreneurs.

The Houston-based participant is called "Texas Innovates: Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator," or CHILI, and it's a program meant to feed startups into the DOE recognized HyVelocity program and other regional decarbonization efforts.

EPIC was launched to drive innovation at a local level and to inspire commercial success of energy startups. It's the third year of the competition that wraps up with a winning participant negotiating a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million.

“Incubators and Accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support," DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan says in a news release. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources, and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”

CHILI, the only participant in Texas, now moves on to the second phase of the competition, where they will design a project continuation plan and programming for the next seven months to be submitted in September.

where they’ll implement their programming and design a project continuation plan over the next 7 months. In September they will submit their plans with the hope of being selected to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each.

Phase 2 also includes two national pitch competitions with a total of $165,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for startups. The first EPIC pitch event for 2024 will be in June at the 2024 Small Business Forum & Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last fall, the DOE selected the Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hub was announced to receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will get.


The DOE's OTT selections are nationwide. Photo via energy.gov

Law firm's Houston office expands energy expertise

new hire

Leading adviser to energy companies, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has announced a new energy transactions partner in the firm’s Houston office.

Ian Goldberg will advise clients on various energy transactions, which will include project development, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and financial transactions that will involve oil and gas assets, energy transition investments and rare earth mineral deposits.

He previously led the energy transactions practice at Hunton Andrews Kurth.

“Akin has a top-tier integrated platform across the entire energy value chain,” Goldberg says in a news release.” I’m excited to be joining a growing and dynamic team.”

He will be joining recent additions to Akin’s energy practice that include projects & energy transition partners Ike Emehelu (New York), Alex Harrison, Matt Hardwick and Dan Giemajner (London), energy regulatory partners Emily Mallen and Stephen Hug (Washington, D.C.), tax equity partner Sam Guthrie (Washington, D.C.) and projects & energy transition partner Vanessa Richelle Wilson (Washington, D.C.)..

“Ian adds depth to our energy team with extensive experience in the onshore and offshore upstream and midstream sectors, and his current representation of clients in the carbon capture, utilization & storage and hydrogen spaces further strengthens our growing projects & energy transition practice,” corporate practice co-head Zachary Wittenberg adds in the release.