UH will create the new Energy Transition Institute after a $10 million gift from Shell that will be combined with other gifts and matching funds to reach over $52 million.
This institute will focus on hydrogen, carbon management and circular plastics, with the ultimate goal of decreasing humans’ reliance on carbon and halting climate change.
The funds will go towards recruiting endowed chairs and professors, operating research programs and creating and modifying degree programs related to energy transition.
“Houston is poised, like no other city, to lead the energy transition and the Energy Transition Institute will be essential in pursuit of that goal,” said President Renu Khator in a press release. “Along with advancing energy equity and social impacts in our communities, Shell’s generous gift will help UH maintain its leadership role in the energy transition.”
The institute will launch in the next couple of months and faculty will be recruited in the next year or so, according to UH chief energy officer Ramanan Krishnamoorti.
The growth of many current UH activities will be facilitated by the institute, including work by the Center for Carbon Management in Energy, the Welch Center for Polymer Chemistry and faculty who have been pioneering hydrogen-related technologies.
By emphasizing hydrogen, which is environmentally friendly, the Energy Transition Institute hopes to decrease human carbon emissions.
Carbon management will reduce emissions by capturing, storing and using carbon dioxide and methane. The circular plastics focus will establish guidelines for plastics to make them less harmful to the environment.
The institute will also build conversations in equity, diversity and justice. By engaging community stakeholders and non-government and grassroots organizations, UH hopes to research environmental justice and how Hispanic and Latino communities can be less negatively impacted by the energy transition.
Finally, the Energy Transition Institute will train the existing workforce on sustainable energy development if they are currently unfamiliar with the topic.
Krishnamoorti anticipates entirely new disciplines being created. Students as well as stakeholders will be able to get involved through early research opportunities, internships in large established companies and start-ups, innovation and entrepreneurship, deployment and commercial opportunities.
“Our intent is to look at the challenge holistically and solve the societal issue – not an academic pursuit,” Krishnamoorti said.