Be the Change for Climate Change: Get Ready for Climathon Houston 2021!

Be the Change for Climate Change: Get Ready for Climathon Houston 2021!

Getting Ready for Climathon Houston 2021: A Look at Climathon 2020 Winner InnoGrid

In 2020, 11 teams gathered at Climathon Houston to develop solutions to the challenges presented in the City of Houston’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Three teams’ ideas rose to the top; and InnoGrid’s approach to addressing the lack of energy resiliency in our city was particularly relevant in the wake of Winter Storm Uri. 

As we prepare for Climathon Houston 2021, we caught up with InnoGrid to learn about their progress since being selected as one of 2020’s winners. Team members Bryan Gottfried, Paresh Patel, and Edward “Ed” D. Pettitt, II, gave us an update:

Q: How has your role evolved since Climathon Houston 2020? 

Ed Pettitt: During the Climathon, I contributed relative to my roles as a Third Ward resident and community organizer, as well as a public health practitioner, business owner, and urban planning student. I provided input as a member of the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD), which engages in advocacy for the development rights of working class African-American residents in and around the Innovation Corridor, which we selected as the proposed site for InnoGrid. Since the Climathon, I have further delved into energy justice issues and am now an active member of the Equity in the Clean Energy Economy (ECEE) Collaborative and a Graduate Research Assistant with the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice (CECJ).

Bryan Gottfried: My background as a geoscientist has led me to advocate for the expanded use of geothermal energy resources. I am also interested in promoting the modernization of our electric grid and improving resiliency. During the Climathon, I originally suggested the development of a microgrid, although I had something like Austin’s Whisper Valley development in mind — a master-planned mixed-use residential-commercial community that uses geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling. We shifted the focus on the Innovation District to take advantage of the redevelopment and the clean-tech advancements occurring there. Since then, I’ve hosted our regular team meetings and reached out to others who could help the project. I’m looking forward to pushing things along now that we’ve gained support from crucial partners.

Paresh Patel: As a start-up founder focusing on energy poverty and a champion of sustainable energy for all (UN SDG7), I have been advancing deployment of solar microgrids and minigrids in off-grid frontier markets. In Asia and Africa, distributed renewable energy models (DREs) were enabling millions to essentially leapfrog centralized, legacy energy infrastructure. I was looking for a way to develop a microgrid closer to home. As an inaugural member of Greentown Labs Houston, I had been conceptualizing something similar, stemming from my recommendation for them to install rooftop solar panels. While it wasn’t financially practical there, I presented the idea of a microgrid for the wider Innovation District to its developer, Rice Management Company (RMC). It made sense to join up and work with the InnoGrid team. Since then, I’ve driven our partnerships with Baker Botts and Schneider Electric, and discussions with stakeholders like CenterPoint.

Q: What do you think of your impact innovation journey and progress since Climathon Houston 2020? Have you discovered anything new and/or surprising?

Ed Pettitt: Since the Climathon, we have learned a lot about the process of seeking funding and technical support for a microgrid startup. From submitting a Connected Communities grant application to the U.S. Department of Energy to partnering with Baker Botts for pro bono representation, I am very pleased with the progress we have made.

Bryan Gottfried: I echo Ed’s comments. This is an entirely new realm for me — from learning about various sources of funding to the numerous regulatory and technical challenges. I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made considering we’ve been dealing with COVID throughout the life of the project, as well as the transition between federal administrations which has had a significant impact on policies and sources of funding.

Paresh Patel: It has been a discovery process on several levels. We’ve had to gather learnings and lessons on all aspects of building out a microgrid from the ground up. Our mission-driven model has resonated. There’s consensus that we should have a microgrid in the heart of Midtown as a source of resilient, sustainable energy — it’s become even more imperative in the wake of polar vortex Uri. We’ve been able to access industry leaders and stakeholders, forge partnerships, and consult a wide range of experts. Baker Botts and Schneider have helped us complete a project qualification study scoping the potential for a microgrid in the Innovation District. That’ll give us a clearer understanding of the technical and financial dimensions of the project, and will put us in a position to seek federal funding, grants, and other capital.

Q:  How has your outreach to other organizations helped InnoGrid’s progress? Are there partnerships with similar organizations that you’d like to seek? Why?

Ed Pettitt: Our outreach to the Equity in a Clean Energy Economy (ECEE) Collaborative has opened up a number of opportunities to learn from and engage in best practices related to utility program design, customer research, public participation, and regulation and policy.

Bryan Gottfried: There are numerous individuals and organizations that have encouraged us and given us ideas on ways to push the project forward. I believe FEMA’s BRIC program (Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities) fits nicely with the goals of our project and I’m looking forward to exploring that avenue further as we move along in the process.

Paresh Patel: I too joined the ECEE with Ed. I’ve also had discussions on forming an alliance with Climable, which has developed community microgrids in the Boston area. We’re mission-aligned and their proven business model can be adapted for the Houston context. RMC is a key stakeholder, and we’d like to find a way to enlist them as a partner, with the potential to add The Ion and adjacent commercial buildings as a co-anchor site. 

Q:  Stakeholders such as the City of Houston and CenterPoint Energy are excited about InnoGrid’s plan. What do you think the next steps should be? How do you help stakeholders like these move forward?

Ed Pettitt: One of the next steps should involve the City of Houston facilitating a signed Community Benefits Agreement between Rice Management Company (RMC) and the Houston Coalition for Equitable Development without Displacement (HCEDD) that includes a provision for affordable housing and equitable access to affordable energy (like that proposed by InnoGrid) in and around the Innovation Corridor.

Bryan Gottfried: One of our most significant hurdles is the Chicken-and-Egg situation: It’s hard to get property owners to participate in InnoGrid unless they receive incentives from the City, but it’s difficult for the City to offer those incentives without a better understanding of the scope and level of interest they’d see through property owners’ participation. Similarly, without knowing the interest from property owners and the scope and level of support from the City, it’s hard to have substantive conversations with CenterPoint about Innogrid. I believe we need to get both CenterPoint and the City to agree that InnoGrid is something they want to see happen and will incentivize property owners to participate in.

Paresh Patel: CenterPoint has been supportive, providing helpful guidance on technical aspects of interfacing InnoGrid with their infrastructure. To Bryan’s point, we want to explore specific ways to partner with CenterPoint once we have the project qualification study completed by Schneider Electric. The InnoGrid aligns with the goals of the City’s Climate Action Plan and the Resilient Houston plan. Naturally, the City’s ongoing support would be indispensable.

Q:  What kinds of financing opportunities are you exploring or would help develop the InnoGrid? 

Bryan Gottfried: I mentioned FEMA’s BRIC program above, and I think the Texas PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) will be a resource that we can guide property owners to so they can install generation capability that can then be tied into the InnoGrid.

Paresh Patel: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes new funding streams for grid infrastructure, much of which could directly or indirectly boost microgrid demonstration and resiliency projects that we are tracking. We might also consider a crowdfunding campaign as a way to invite community buy-in and raise public awareness of the project.

Q:  In your wildest dreams, what would InnoGrid’s future look like and how would it impact the Houston area?

Ed Pettitt: I envision an Innovation Corridor that supports entrepreneurism and small business development while providing stable, decentralized, and affordable energy through an innovative microgrid that contributes to job creation and equitable access to clean energy that prevents the displacement of long-term and working class residents. 

Bryan Gottfried: I can’t say it any better than Ed did! I would also like the InnoGrid to become something that Houston is known for within the world of clean-tech, and have it cited as a model for other urban microgrids.

Paresh Patel: Ed captured it quite nicely. Once the initial InnoGrid site is proven, the value will become obvious to others. I’d like to see the InnoGrid evolve into a microgrid model that can be deployed to serve LMI households across Houston and beyond that are most vulnerable to energy poverty and insecurity as extreme weather events become more frequent. In sum, Equity through Resiliency.

Q:  Any additional thoughts or information you’d like to share?

Bryan Gottfried: I could have never imagined that signing up for the Climathon last year would have led to this amazing experience. I’ve learned so much and met so many great people. I encourage anyone who is considering participating in it this year to do so–you never know where it may lead!

Paresh Patel: I second Bryan’s invitation. The Climathon catalyzed the random collisions and connections of ideas and innovators leading to this collaborative—and potentially transformative—project. A huge thanks to Impact Hub Houston and partners for hosting the Climathon!

The InnoGrid team has had quite a year and we’re excited to see their continued progress. We hope that their journey is an inspiration to others who want to catalyze action and make an impact. We invite everyone to join us for the Climathon 2021 Kick-off on October 25th. As Bryan Gottfried said: I encourage anyone who is considering participating in it this year to do so–you never know where it may lead! 

The impacts of climate change are all around us, hitting our region more seriously and rapidly than models have predicted. We invite you to leverage Climathon Houston as a way to start ideating and innovating solutions or to continue working on and engaging people in solutions you may already be developing.

Come learn about this year’s challenges, connect with the teams, and get ready for the week! We’ll see you at Climathon!

Impact Hub Houston Puts Houston on the Global Climathon Map with First Climate Action Hackathon October 25

Impact Hub Houston Puts Houston on the Global Climathon Map with First Climate Action Hackathon October 25

For Immediate Release:  October 7, 2019
Contact: Grace Rodriguez
Email address: [email protected]

HOUSTON, TX – Houston is no stranger to extreme weather and disasters due to climate change, with three 500-year floods—and the destructive Hurricane Harvey—in recent years. The “Energy Capital of the World,” Houston has one of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country, emitting over 34 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2014 alone. To spark sustainable solutions to these challenges,  Impact Hub Houston is excited to announce it is organizing Houston’s first Climathon on October 25, 2019, with partners that include global organizer EIT Climate-KIC, the City of Houston, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Houston Community College, Sketch City, January Advisors, Bunker Labs, WeWork Labs, Syzygy Plasmonics and GoodFair. All designers, developers, entrepreneurs, students, policymakers, and people wanting to improve Houston’s quality of life are invited to participate.

“During Hurricane Harvey, we saw Houston’s talent rise to these challenges and develop solutions that not only helped rescue, feed and shelter local Houstonians, but went on to help people in Florida and Puerto Rico,” says Grace Rodriguez, CEO/Executive Director of Impact Hub Houston. “We’re excited to join the global Climathon challenge in order to give Houston’s changemakers a platform to develop sustainable air, water, energy, etc., solutions and take them to the next level. In such a diverse city with so many resources, it seems only natural that Houston can help lead the way in developing local solutions that can scale to other contexts.”

Lara Cottingham, Chief of Staff & Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Houston, references the Mayor’s recently-announced Climate Action Plan and acknowledges that to scale the plan’s impact, “We must engage local citizens and the startup and entrepreneurship community in developing innovative solutions towards climate action.”

“Houston has a lot to lose as the weather changes,” said Jeff Reichman, founder of January Advisors and Sketch City. “We should be using our talents to elevate good ideas for our region, and to connect with one another for long-term collaborations.”

Houston’s biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are transportation (47%) and commercial and residential buildings (49%). Other sources of emissions include manufacturing, waste, and fugitive emissions (4%). The Climathon Challenges address these problem sources, encouraging people to develop solutions in the areas of mobility, retrofitting, circular economy, food, climate finance, human behavior, water management, energy, extreme weather, waste management, and air pollution.

The Climathon is Houstonians’ opportunity to connect with leaders and subject experts for guidance in developing viable solutions in any of the challenge areas. Local judges will select the most promising ideas to submit to the Climathon database, for consideration to present at the Global Awards in Paris. The best may go on to win support from the global community!

For more information, please visit

To register to participate, go to


About Impact Hub Houston (

Impact Hub Houston is a locally rooted, globally connected, nonprofit startup development organization that aims to make Houston a role model for how the world solves its most pressing issues. A member of the Impact Hub global network—the world’s largest community recognized by the United Nations for accelerating entrepreneurial solutions towards measurable and scalable impact for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—Impact Hub Houston intentionally designs places, platforms and programs to build an inclusive innovation ecosystem and empower diverse changemakers, social entrepreneurs, and impact supporters to create the change they wish to see in the world.

About EIT Climate-KIC (

EIT Climate-KIC is a European knowledge and innovation community, working to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy. Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, they identify and support innovation that helps society mitigate and adapt to climate change. EIT believes that a decarbonised, sustainable economy is not only necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change, but presents a wealth of opportunities for business and society.

Climathon 2019: Hacking Solutions to Houston’s Climate Challenges!

Climathon 2019: Hacking Solutions to Houston’s Climate Challenges!

Bring Your #ClimateAction Ideas to Life at Climathon!

Oct 25, 2019 | Impact Hub Houston @ HX

Missed the event? Hear about it on Houston Matters: Brenda Ruiz of Houston Public Media covered us!

Submit Your SolutionsChallenges & Schedule

Houston, “The Energy Capital of the World,” has experienced three 500-year-flood disasters—including the destruction from Hurricane Harvey—in the same amount of years. We’ve seen local talent rise to these challenges in the past, and want to give them a platform to take their solutions to the next level. In such a diverse city with a tremendous amount of resources, it seems only natural that Houston can help lead the way in developing local solutions that can scale to other contexts…especially in light of the Mayor’s recently-announced Climate Action Plan

Climathon 2019 is Houston’s opportunity to:

  • Engage the nonprofit, startup and entrepreneurship communities to develop innovative solutions towards climate action
  • Build stronger relationships among impact-oriented organizations and communities
  • Connect thought leaders and subject matter experts with designers, developers, entrepreneurs, policymakers and activists for more creative, effective, and viable solutions
  • Send talented Houstonians to present their solution at the Climathon Global Awards in France!

What happens during Climathon?

Presenting the Challenges: Entrepreneurs, students, developers, and more are invited to come up with innovative solutions to Houston’s climate challenges.

Creating Solutions: You’ll connect with city officials and partners around a shared vision for a healthier city. You’ll help bring this vision to life by participating in the hackathon October 25, 1pm-10pm: You can bring an existing idea to work on, or develop a new solution with an inspiring team. Coaches and experts will be on hand to help you develop promising solutions to Houston’s climate challenges. Participants can win passes to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, courtesy of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition!

What happens after Climathon?

You can continue working on your solutions on October 29 at Open Project Night and over the next two weeks. For those serious about turning their ideas into viable businesses, we’ll help you prepare to pitch to our panel of judges, who will evaluate which ideas move on to the next phase. The highest scoring team will be awarded the opportunity to work with Topl to build a customized Impact Tracker for their solution: This Tracker will give the winners the opportunity to turn their sustainable solution into verifiable action by creating, analyzing, and eventually exchanging Impact Credits on Topl, the impact blockchain!

The top three solutions will be submitted for a chance to go to the Climathon Global Awards in Paris and win a Citizens Award and cash prizes: 1st) EUR 10,000 / 2nd) EUR 5000 / 3rd) EUR 2500

Finalists selected to move to the next phase will receive:

  • An invitation to the Climathon Global Awards Ceremony on January 31 in Paris during the ChangeNOW Summit
  • A dedicated one-day bootcamp to grow your idea, on January 30 in Paris
  • Free entrance to the 3-day ChangeNOW Summit
  • Travel and accommodation for one person per team of semi-finalists is complimentary (additional team members are more than welcome to join at their own expense!)


Thank you for joining us for Houston’s first Climathon!

We’re so excited to see what solutions you develop to make Houston a better place to live for all. Please check your inboxes or click the button at right to review the Welcome Letter for day-of instructions. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected]. We look forward to seeing you on October 25!

Climathon Houston Challenges

Challenge #1: Crowdsource Solutions for the City of Houston

Stakeholder and citizen engagement are an important part of solving Houston’s climate challenges. The City seeks solutions towards multiple goals from the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan, which guide the strategies and actions that the City and community can take to reduce our GHG emissions and help prepare for a changing climate

Challenge #2: Better Decisions from Better Carbon Visibility

By giving consumers visibility to the carbon footprint of different energy sources, which companies utilize these sources, and the degree to which they utilize these sources, we can empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions about their energy supply.

Challenge #3: Impact Climate Awareness and Action

When sustainability is taken into account, not every action carries the same weight. How can we motivate people to adopt a new, sustainable lifestyle and act in meaningful ways in their everyday lives in order to address the main causes of climate change?

Challenge #4: Houston Electric Vehicles (EV) Challenge

For a developing EV market to thrive it is important that would-be adopters have awareness of and convenient access to options that suit their needs and preferences.

Climathon Houston Schedule

October 25, 2019

1:00 pm


Participant check-in and mingling

1:20 pm


Welcome Video featuring Kirsten Dunlop (CEO, Climate-KIC); Prize Award description from Topl; Participant Introductions and Instructions
1:40 pm
Team Formation


Challenge Sponsors present challenges, Innovators present ideas, and teams form around projects

2:00 pm
Get Hacking!


The hacking begins!

6:00 pm
Break for Dinner


Teams break for dinner. We’ll discuss how judging and submission for the Global Awards will work. Everyone is welcome to continue working through dinner, though!

10:00 pm
Wrap Up!


Teams wrap up for the evening. We’ll share next steps. If you’d like to continue working on your solutions among peers, join us at Open Project Night on October 29!


Meet Our Coaches, Judges and Experts

Jeff Reichman
Jeff Reichman

Founder, Sketch City & January Advisors

Kevin Doffing
Kevin Doffing

Houston Lead, Bunker Labs

Lara Cottingham
Lara Cottingham

Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Houston

Rachel Powers
Rachel Powers

Executive Director, Citizens' Environmental Coalition

Carlos Estrada
Carlos Estrada

Labs Manager, WeWork

Grace Rodriguez
Grace Rodriguez

CEO, Impact Hub Houston

Trevor Best
Trevor Best

CEO, Syzygy Plasmonics

Ravi Brahmbhatt
Ravi Brahmbhatt

Director of Student Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Houston Community College (HCC)

Topl Tech Team
Topl Tech Team
Support Solutions to Houston's Climate Challenges!

Where It’s At

Impact Hub Houston @ HX
410 Pierce St, Suite 215
Houston TX 77002

This Event is Free, But There’s Only Room for 60!

Partners & Sponsors

Many thanks to our partners and sponsors for spreading the word and making this event FREE to participate in!