UH Energy, CERAWeek Call for Orderly and Collaborative Energy Transition

By Ed Bailey

When asked about the future locations for CERAWeek, the preeminent global energy conference, co-founder and primary host Daniel Yergin was very clear.

“Houston is the right place for CERAWeek because this is where so much of the action is,” said Yergin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning energy historian in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “Houston is the energy story.”

Thousands of tech, finance, industry and government leaders traveled to Houston, the Energy Capital of the World, for the 2023 event, where much of the discussion centered on the next steps in the unfolding energy transition.

This year’s theme focused more on carbon capture and hydrogen’s role in achieving net zero and energy security – areas that the University of Houston and the City of Houston– have made notable strides in their efforts to provide innovative solutions and help the energy industry transition to a net-zero future.

CERAWeek’s Agora addressed the latest challenges in energy and sustainability and exchanging innovative solutions and ideas.

UH Energy had a strong presence at the 2023 CERAWeek. Ram Seetharam, energy center officer and hydrogen lead, shared updates about Project SHOWPLACE, an innovative effort/program focused on establishing synergy between offshore power and hydrogen generation and storage.

“It was evident from the Agora sessions that the innovation space is very active, with several companies rising to meet the challenges of decarbonization,” Seetharam said.

UH Energy Transition Institute’s Founding Executive Director Joe Powell, who addressed future decision makers during the week, noted that while industry’s eagerness to shift toward the future is more than palpable, hurdles remain.

“CERAWeek was an amazing confluence of global energy and thought leaders in Houston, the energy capital, augmented by the Agora showcase of emerging technologies,” he said. “Motivation to achieve net zero by 2050 is high, but there are concerns over ability to finance, permitting and stakeholder engagement which can limit pace of deployment.”

Without addressing these challenges, Powell said, the road ahead will remain a bumpy one.

Given the need for an accelerated yet orderly shift from fossil fuels to renewables, several of UH Energy’s strategic partners and representatives focused on navigating the world’s ambitious goals of emissions reduction while being mindful of current energy needs.

“Houston was built with oil and gas, and we’ll continue to need oil and gas,” Houston Mayor and UH alum Sylvester Turner said during a round table discussion.

“If we can make it so that everybody wins, we can get rid of the winners and losers mindset [that has caused pushback],” Turner said. “You can say transition, you can say we’re evolving… but this is a journey. It does not happen overnight. We’re going to need our energy companies, and we’re going to need fossil fuels for a while. No one is saying to cut it off right now, but we also recognize that we need each other and we need to transition.”