Houston Perspectives on Superpollutants and EV’s. Resilient Business Forum July 2019 | 1 of 3


series on sustainability and resilience
issues, and I said well that’s great because we just started up the project
exactly doing that, so let’s work together. Real quick if you’re not familiar, Center for Houston’s Future We’re a nonprofit organization that tries to
identify the most pressing, long-term issues that are going to affect the
success of our region 20, 30, 40 years on the future, and then we try to bring together leaders to develop solutions for those problems. So we work on three
major issue areas right now: health care, immigration and of course climate/ resilience. With that said, one housekeeping item.
It took me an hour and a half to get here today from downtown. We are getting started about five minutes late just because the traffic considerations, and I think we’re gonna end about five minutes late. Of course we want to be respectful for your time. If you have to leave by 7, please do so. With that, Kaitlyn. I’ll introduce everyone here but Steven, thank you again and thank you for the Center for Houston’s Future for co-sponsoring this. And thanks for fighting the traffic to get down here. We really appreciate it. I was reflecting on this year, and I know it’s only July, but I feel like this has been a really remarkable 2019, especially for sustainability in Houston. I was thinking about how the very first time ever at CERAWeek and OTC we heard about the transition to a low-carbon economy. featured in headlining events, and we heard big oil companies talk about how they wanted to produce with lower emissions. Then the Center for Houston’s Future, they had their Houston Low-Carbon Energy Summit which was very well attended. The City of Houston is working on their climate action plan. And we’re hoping the Resilient Business Forum is, really hoping to bring this wider business community into the conversation and continue to increase
awareness about these global trends affecting our area. So for tonight, hopefully you guys have heard of GreenBiz. But they every year put out a State
of Green Business where they review what happened last year and then put out predictions of what they think is coming up. So we thought it would be interesting to evaluate a few of those trends for our local region and see how are they playing out here. What are Houston businesses and institution seeing? Is this only happening in to dance in San Francisco or New York, London or is it happening here as well? And so the three trends we’re going to talk about tonight are superpollutants, management and reduction, the adoption of EV’s, electric vehicles, and science-based targets. So let me introduce our panel here.
First of all we have Michael Conklin from CenterPoint Energy. He’s the external engagement manager at CenterPoint, an energy delivery company with a regulated utility business in eight states and competitive energy businesses in nearly 40 states. He’s responsible for leading stakeholder engagement and coordination on a e-mobility initiatives across CenterPoint Energy
footprint. Michael’s a founding member of EVolve Houston, a growing
public/private partnership driving electrification of transportation across
the Greater Houston area. And before joining CenterPoint as
the external engagement manager, Michael previously served as a lead analyst in the strategic planning at M&A group. He served in positions managing CenterPoint Energy’s weather hedging programs and providing risk management support
for CenterPoint services gas trading operations. Thank you for being on our
panel today. Lisa, here, leads the transportation demand department for Rice University where she’s in charge of implementing sustainable and active
transportation studies initiative on campus. And previously she was the
Climate Program Manager for the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability, and managed the City’s, that city’s, not our city but San Antonio’s, your former city’s first climate action and adaptation plan which is called S.A. Climate Ready. And prior to that she was the sustainability manager of the
Mayor’s Office of Sustainability here in the City of Houston and she represented
our city at International convenings through the c40 cities and helped Houston
achieve a Star communities, which is now known as LEED for cities. She also has
experience working for global environmental NGOs on climate mitigation
and started her career at a commercial architecture firm where she led the
company’s green buildings efforts. She is the board chair of the Bayou Land
Conservancy, a regional council member for the USGBC Texas Gulf Coast, and a
clean tech open sustainablity mentor. And this year she’s gonna be starting her a
grad studies at University of Oxford, with a focus on sustainable urban development. And then here in the middle, we have Dylan who is a senior sustainability adviser at power generator and retailer, NRG, where she develops strategies to shift the
business away from its direct link from the emissions that causes climate change.
As the principal in NRG’s advisory firm, she guides public and private sector clients to become more resilient to climate change and natural
disasters, source clean energies, and invest in efficiency. She’s facilitated
NRG’s emissions reductions of 37% since 2014 and help keep the company integral to the broader conversation about how businesses can
lead positive change. She has an M.S. in Sustainable Design from the UT Austin School of Architecture and a B.A. Liberal Arts from the Sarah Lawrence College. And previous to that she was the sustainability manager for the City of
Austin’s Office of Sustainability, She led high-profile projects at the
intersection of strategic planning and urban development including Austin Seaholm EcoDistrict. Before that she was at the think-tank, consultancy and design firm CMPBS where she was the primary sustainable design advisor for
civic projects for power plants to homeless shelters to libraries.
Dylan’s also a board officer with the Austin Community Design and Development Center and an alumni of the 2007 CEF Transformational Leadership program in Ecuador. And then last we have Kaitlyn Allen who’ll be moderating this discussion
tonight, and she founded Global Affairs Associates, a boutique consultancy that helps clients bridge business and sustainability in 2013. She and her team believed that business-centered approaches are crucial for creating long-lasting value and have supporting clients in diverse industries including drilling, oil and gas, construction, and death care. She brings a multi-discplinary perspective
to business, incorporating a background in international relations, psychology, and
sustainable development to help businesses remain competitive while
effectively managing their environmental, social and governance risks and impacts.
She’s also the founder of MendIt, a tech platform that will give every consumer
with an internet connection a low-cost opportunity to participate in
the circular economy. She has a master’s degree in Georgetown University and Bachelor’s from Trinity. I’ll pass it over to you. Thank you, Amanda. So the first prediction that we wanted to take a look at is that “super pollutants become super important,”
so first let’s explain what makes a pollutant super. I’m gonna give you just an excerpt from
the GreenBiz report. Greenhouse gases such as methane, black carbon, also known soot, chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-fluorocarbons don’t have a long lifespan in the atmosphere They may wafted for days or decades
rather than the centuries carbon dioxide is expected to hang around, but
these greenhouse gases are troublesome because they have an outsize negative
impact during their time in the biosphere. So the analogy given at the
Houston Low-Carbon Summit, that was mentioned, in June was that climate
change is more akin to a long-term health condition such as heart disease,
but superpollutants are more like a gash in your arm that’s bleeding and
needs immediate attention. So a lot of scientists and policy makers
believe the prioritizing the management of super pollutants is absolutely key to
staying on track with the Paris agreement. So let’s start with you, Dylan at NRG, how does NRG work to reduce a super pollutants? So it’s really funny analogy about the gash in the arm versus a long-term illness, sort of morbid. Wasn’t mine. I can’t claim responsibility, but I thought it was a good visual. So NRG, as Amanda mentioned and some
of you are probably familiar, is a wholesale power generator as well as a
retailer of electricity. Because we do both things we have a lot
of connection to natural gas. Natural gas is a raw material that we use to
generate electricity in many of our facilities, and a lot of those are in the Houston area, but they’re also all around the country. And then natural gas is
obviously a product of the electricity that we buy on the open market and then
resell as a retailer. We also have a small, relatively to NRG’s electricity retail, we have a small natural gas retail business that’s
mostly in the Southeast United States. So natural gas is a huge part of what we do
therefore methane becomes a major issue in terms of the super pollutants that
we’re dealing with. We also have a relationship with NOx and SOx and
soot but those are Could you just real quick say NOx and SOx are? Nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides of all sorts, but these are typically, although they are part of the super pollutants kind of category,
they tend to be byproducts of the the burning of fossil fuels. And that is a highly regulated, at least in administrations prior to this one, process so when your
power plant has a scrubber on its outlets that is what it’s
scrubbing out, is those pollutants that you don’t really want a lot of. So as
compared to something like a methane in our supply chain, those super pollutants
are pretty low. They are not really material to the other
pollutants that we’re looking at that. That’s also the case with CO2
which is our scope one, or in other words our direct CO2 emissions at
NRG, are our most urgent impact and they are really where we put our all our
resources and all of our attention. That doesn’t mean that the methane and the thing isn’t happening so when during the fracking process at
wellheads methane is being released and that process from a deep underground.
It’s also being released in the process, the oil drilling process, that also
yields natural gas, so you’re getting a lot of methane in that supply chain that
as a major purchaser of natural gas we don’t have a lot of control over,
or at least we didn’t until pretty recently. We’re one of 12 of the major natural gas buyers in the U.S. that formed the Natural Gas Supply Collaborative So a stakeholder group that came together with the buying power of 13% of the US market in gas. Excuse me. All those super pollutants in
the air today. We joined together in the Natural Gas Supply Collaborative to
start talking about how we could get visibility into what it is these
natural gas suppliers are doing about methane. So a few things have come out of
that. The first is right now we’re asking for voluntary disclosures from those suppliers about the methane that they are emitting among other factors also water use, water quality what they’re doing with their produced
water which is kind of the waste water that comes out of those well sites
and often is pretty gross. That’s a technical term. And there’s a whole flight of voluntary disclosures
that the Natural Gas Supply Collaborative has requested of those suppliers. In the meantime the folks like us who buy the majority of the marketed
natural gas as well as the vertically integrated companies that kind of buy,
sell, and find, like the Shells of the world, have been able to set their own goals
around the types of natural gas that they’re purchasing and from
where and also intensity goals around some methane emissions that come from
the wells that are in their supply chain, so it’s become more than it originally
was envisaged to be. The beginning was like “Okay, how can
we get our suppliers to tell us anything?” To tell anyone anything. To try to encourage a level of transparency, not radical transparency,
like the basic level of transparency and it’s really becomes something where each
company’s building on what the other companies are doing in order to really
get us to a place where we have our arms around this problem so that’s kind of
where we are on it. We still pay a lot more attention to CO2. CO2e is where we
really where our hearts are, and it’s just so much easier to understand. Like “Hey, that power plant right there that burns coal. That’s a problem.” So that’s a little bit where we are on it and happy to talk to anyone who wants to learn more about the NGSC. Thank you. I think there’s a couple things that I take away from that.
One is that the purchasing power of customers is it’s absolutely key to
increasing transparency and also in action down the supply chain, so that’s a
really important example. But two, people might not necessarily sense a
direct connection with their daily lives so Mike wanted to ask you what are some
of the others superpollutants that are impacting our area, our region, directly? Thanks for the question. I think one that certainly comes to mind is nitrogen oxides which you mentioned Nitrogen oxides, when we talk about here
in Houston we have an air quality problem, and I love Houston. I hate to say
that, but we do. The air quality is bad. We are in severe non-attainment by national
ambient air quality standards, and the reason is because of nitrogen oxides. And nitrogen oxides are a little bit closer to us than say carbon dioxide is. Carbon
dioxide is in a really big way, but it still seems a little bit far off. Whereas
nitrogen oxides can cause things like asthma and can cause things like heart
attack. To give an example just recently LA released the results of a study that
they did over 20 years, and over 20 years they reduced the amount of nitrogen
oxides in their atmosphere through traffic related measures. They reduced it
by 20%, and asthma went down by 20%. So you can’t draw a definitive connection between the two, but certainly it’s something that’s
well understood, the cause and effect there, and I think that that was a very revealing. news article that came out. So nitrogen
oxides where do they come from? A lot of places. Generation is one of them but actually our generators and our industrial source of nitrogen oxides over
the last few decades have made great strides to reduce that. At this point
67%, 67, 2/3 of our nitrogen oxides come from transportation. That’s vehicles,
on-road vehicles primarily. 90% of that 67% is just passenger vehicles driving
around. That’s all of us. So if we want to reduce nitrogen oxides which have a negative impact not only on the environment, causes global warming, also affect us in our daily lives, turns into ozone cause asthma, do all this terrible
stuff. One of the things that we can do is we can attack that 2/3 of the
problem which really is the only pollutant that is keeping us in severe
non-attainment, which has impacts for our region economically. If we remain
in the city in non-attainment, we get sued for that. That’s not good. We don’t
want that. If we can attack that problem and reduce it through transportation
related measures, electrified transportation is what I work on, and I
think that that’s a great way to resolve that problem. And the co-benefits are
health in your day of life, continuing resilience of the planet. All good things. So the concepts of reducing superpollutants and improving air quality are really directly related to the concepts of electrified transportation. Correct. So that’s a great segue into the transportation topic, so let’s move to that next. So the second of green business trends that we wanted to examine is “electric
buses and trucks charge ahead.” We’re broadening that to discuss
electrification of transportation in general in Houston, so this quote from
the report seemed really directly relevant to our region. “Fleet
electrification can help alleviate local air pollution particularly in
economically disadvantaged communities often found near ports, bus depots, and
industrial warehouses.” And they don’t know that in Houston there’s no zoning, so
that could be any of us, not necessarily just economically disadvantaged
communities. “Drivers and riders of these vehicles likewise will benefit from the
elimination of diesel exhaust.” So Michael, you’re deeply immersed in the
electrification discussions in Houston through your work with EVolve. So let me ask you, and maybe you can tell them what EVolve is as well. Believe me. I will. What is the state of transportation electrification in Houston? What does it look like? Sure. I could talk for two hours on that. So first off, EVolve Houston, if you haven’t heard of it, EVolve Houston is something that started just this year, and it
started as a public-private partnership.

Danny Hutson

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