Houston Pumps Private Equity, Cleantech Innovation into Clean Energy Transition

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Home to more than 500 oil and gas exploration and production firms, Houston has long been recognized as the oil capital of the world, and employs nearly one-third of U.S. jobs in oil and gas extraction. Yet in the last decade, as the transition to a low-carbon future gains ground both at home and abroad, Texas’ most populous city has also emerged, somewhat ironically, as a clean energy capital. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Houston is the top municipal consumer of renewable energy in the U.S., and wind and solar energy account for over 90% of its power. In June this year, the EPA recognized the Greater Houston Area as a national leader in energy innovation, featuring more ENERGY STAR-certified buildings than any other city in Texas, which combine to reduce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 53,000 passenger vehicles.

Houston’s clean energy success can be attributed, in part, to sheer capacity. Texas is the largest wind producer in the country – producing nearly three times more than any other state – with over 28 GW of installed wind power capacity. The state is also on track to add 10 GW of utility-scale solar capacity by the end of 2022, on top of its existing 14.9 GW of installed solar power capacity. Houston, for its part, has doubled its solar capacity in 2020 for the second year in a row, supported by the proliferation of green start-ups and enterprises that are innovating new ways to reduce energy consumption and empower users to generate their own energy.

Founded in 2019, Texas-based electricity company Chariot Energy utilizes AI and machine learning to build and connect users to utility-scale solar farms, instead of individual rooftop panels, to ensure that solar energy is as affordable and accessible as traditional, grid-connected power. IntegrateSun, another Houston-based solar energy provider, designs solar generators that require only six hours of sunlight to operate, in turn reducing their environmental impact and enabling greater cost savings.

Strong political will has also played a major role in transforming the city into a recognizable green energy leader. In April 2020, the City of Houston committed to purchasing 100% renewable energy through a renewed partnership with integrated power company NRG Energy, simultaneously achieving $65 million in savings over the seven-year contract. The deal is aligned with the Houston Climate Action Plan – a science-based, community-driven strategy released in April 2020 aimed at reducing the city’s greenhouse emissions and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, as set forth by the Paris Agreement. In positioning the city at the forefront of the clean energy transition both at home and abroad, the city of Houston will host the first-ever U.S.-Africa Energy Forum 2021, organized by Energy Capital & Power, which seeks to introduce American companies and financiers to African investment opportunities across the clean energy value chain.

Finally, ample funding opportunities have enabled the growth of Houston’s green industry. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the city’s cleantech industry has garnered $3.7 billion in venture capital funding, in conjunction with financial resources committed by the city and leading international oil and gas companies. The result has been a pioneering cleantech community that has given rise to a series of innovations – from energy storage to carbon capture – that seek to curb emissions and make clean energy more affordable.

Houston-based Prisma Energy Solutions, for example, specializes in creating battery energy storage systems designed to capture energy arbitrage, increase reliability, improve renewables integration and increase system reliability, in turn reducing energy demand. By lowering the cost of operating storage, the company’s model aims to expand battery storage grid participation opportunities. Within the emerging hydrogen segment, Syzygy Plasmonics is developing a photocatalytic chemical reactor designed to reduce cost and emissions for major commodity chemicals by using a reactor that is powered by light instead of heat. The company’s first product will be a distributed hydrogen production system for small-scale hydrogen consumers.

Energy Capital & Power (ECP) – in partnership with the African Energy Chamber’s U.S.-Africa Committee – invites U.S. companies, investors and organizations to participate in the first-ever U.S.-Africa Energy Forum (USAEF) (October 4-5, 2021, Houston, Texas), introducing American companies to African opportunities. To learn more about how U.S. firms can advance the agenda of sustainable, long-term investment in African energy, please visit www.energycapitalpower.com. To sponsor, speak or attend USAEF 2021, please contact Senior Director James Chester at james@18.198.47.39

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Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich

Grace Goodrich is a Publications Editor at Energy Capital & Power, where she writes about the intersection of energy, policy and global finance in sub-Saharan Africa's fastest-growing economies. Grace produces our Africa Energy Series investment reports in Angola and Equatorial Guinea (2019), as well as co-authored African Energy Chamber: Road to Recovery (2021).

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