Events not to miss, a new app launches for the energy industry, and more things to know this week. Photo via Getty Images

Editor's note: It's a new week — start it strong with three quick things to know in Houston's energy transition ecosystem. Meet the new leaders of ERCOT, an app you probably should download, and events not to miss this week.

Energy networking: There's an app for that

This Houston-based media company launched a networking platform to help solve the energy crisis. Screenshots via apps.apple.com

The Digital Wildcatters have created a platform for individuals to get their questions answered by experts and a space for companies seeking qualified talent. Collide is structured to ignite the next generation of energy innovators, as Collin McLelland, co-founder and CEO of Digital Wildcatters, tells EnergyCapital.

“If you look at what we’ve done historically with Digital Wildcatters, we’ve built an extremely engaged community of energy professionals — it’s a next generation community, very young forward thinking professionals that are working towards solving the world’s energy crisis,” McLelland says.

The roll out of Collide has been intentionally gradual, McLelland says because they want to shape the user experience based on feedback from ongoing focus groups. Currently they have about 1,000 users and are examining how they can make the app valuable to them before providing the platform to a wider audience.

McLelland says there are two major issues within the energy sector that Collide hopes to address — a lack of knowledge about energy verticals and difficulty recruiting talent.

“What we really see with our platform is being able to bring people together where if you want to find a piece of information, you need to find a subject matter expert, or if you want to find your next job, it happens on the Collide platform,” McLelland says. Read the full story.

Upcoming must-attend events to put on your radar

Two events this month the energy transition community needs to know about. Photos by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

  • September 14-15 — The Ninth Annual Digitalization in Oil & Gas Conference will focus on digitalization, decarbonization, and innovation within the energy industry across five tracks: IoT, blockchain, digital twins, edge computing, and connectivity for upstream, midstream, and downstream operators.
  • September 21 — The Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum is an opportunity to learn about the latest emerging technologies, meet investors to seek funding, see promising companies, and more.

People to know this week

A quick who's who roundup from last week's EnergyCapital coverage. Photo via Getty Images

Missed some of EnergyCapital's news from last week? Catch up on who to know here.

  • The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, announced a reorganization amongst its leadership. Effective September 1, four ERCOT leaders have new titles and positions: Woody Rickerson has been named to the newly created position of senior vice president and COO; KristiHobbs, who previously served as vice president of corporate strategy and public utility commission relations, will replace Rickerson as vice president of system planning and weatherization and will report directly to Rickerson; BettyDay, vice president of security and compliance and chief compliance officer, has assumed oversight of business continuity; and RebeccaZerwas will serve as director of state policy and public utility commission relations, board liaison. Read the full story.
  • Launched in 2022, The Texas Southern University Division for Research & Innovation is spearheading the institutions efforts in attaining the highest-tier classification for research in higher education institutions. Michelle Penn-Marshall, who serves as vice president for the division, recently sat down with the Houston Energy Transition Initiative to talk about the university’s mission to become a leader in research and the long-term goals for engaging students in the energy sector and advancing the energy transition. Read the full story.
  • With over a billion cars currently on the road — each with four tires that will eventually end up discarded, one Houstonian is hoping to create the infrastructure to sustainably dispose of tire waste now and into the future. VibhuSharma founded InnoVent Renewables to establish production facilities that utilize a proprietary continuous pyrolysis technology that is able to convert waste tires, plastics, and biomass into fuels and chemicals. In a Q&A with EnergyCapital, Sharma explains his plans to sustainably impact the tire waste space and his vision for his company. Read the full story.

ERCOT has made four leadership changes. Photo courtesy of ERCOT

ERCOT makes major leadership changes, names COO

reorganization

Last week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, announced a reorganization amongst its leadership.

“These changes were designed to harness the collaborative talents and strengths of our experienced team in supporting the delivery of reliable and efficient energy to the millions of Texans that we serve,” Pablo Vegas, ERCOT President and CEO, says in a news release.

Effective September 1, four ERCOT leaders have new titles and positions.

Woody Rickerson has been named to the newly created position of senior vice president and COO of ERCOT. He previously served as vice president of system planning and weatherization. In his new role, he will maintain control over weatherization and planning while adding grid and commercial operations to his responsibilities.

“This new position will leverage Rickerson’s deep operations experience and support ERCOT’s continued investments in grid innovations,” adds Vegas.

Kristi Hobbs, who previously served as vice president of corporate strategy and public utility commission relations, will replace Rickerson as vice president of system planning and weatherization and will report directly to Rickerson. She will oversee transmission planning, generator interconnection activities, modeling, and weatherization in her new role.

ERCOT announced two other appointments:

  • Betty Day, vice president of security and compliance and chief compliance officer, has assumed oversight of business continuity.
  • Rebecca Zerwas will serve as director of state policy and public utility commission relations, board liaison.

“As our industry faces dynamic changes, ERCOT is continuously evolving and making the necessary improvements to the grid to support the needs of a growing population and robust economy," Vegas says. "This reorganization allows us to sharpen our focus on daily operations while implementing our long-term strategic plan."

Images via ERCOT.com

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

trying for DEI

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

global greenlight

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.”

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