Clean energy player Greentown Labs to open space in oil capital Houston
Greentown Labs, the big Boston-area incubator of clean technology startups, is opening a second space in Houston, the heart of the U.S. oil industry.
Why it matters: It shows efforts to accelerate changes are already underway in the energy ecosystem even as fossil fuels remain dominant, and the cross-pollination between emerging and legacy industries.
- It will be the city's first "climatetech and cleantech-focused startup incubator," per the joint announcement with city officials and business leaders.
- Houston officials said Greentown will be a "catalyst" to help America's fourth-largest city meet its recently unveiled climate plan.
What they're saying: "We believe the engineering strength, talent, and assets of the energy industry in Houston can and must be redeployed toward a decarbonized future," Greentown CEO Emily Reichert said in announcing the move."Climate change cannot be solved from the coasts — we need all hands on deck at this time," she said.
- The nine-year-old outfit said it's initially providing 30,000 square feet of "prototyping lab" and office space for up to 50 startups.
The big picture via the Houston Chronicle: "Houston has tried in fits and starts to capitalize on its expertise and experience in fossil fuel energy to expand on the growth of renewables."
- "But the effort has been hampered by insufficient venture capital that favors coastal startups, a wary attitude about the legitimacy of climate change from the conservative oil and gas industry, and few government policies that encourage green energy."
The intrigue: Working with fossil fuel companies is not new for Greentown — which has years-long relationships with Shell and Chevron — or startups in general.
- Large oil companies are getting more active in low-carbon energy tech and setting climate goals, even as fossil fuels receive the overwhelming share of their investment.
- The mining and oil heavyweight BHP is a new Greentown partner, and BHP's Michelle Thomas said "we need to leverage those outside our company and outside our industry to think of new ways to reach our goals."