Skip to main content

Shifts in Energy Sources, Workforce Lead State of Energy Discussion with Chevron's Mike Wirth

Published Oct 11, 2019 by Julia McGowen

Houston’s business climate and energy-rich workforce base has long supported its position as The Energy Capital of the World. Both were major discussion topics at the Partnership’s annual State of Energy event on Oct. 9. Mike Wirth, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Chevron, headlined the event by participating in a fireside chat with Bobby Tudor, chairman of Tudor, Pickering, Holt and Co. and the Partnership's 2019 vice chair. Click the link above to watch the full presentation. 

Here are four takeaways from Wirth’s comments. 

Environmental Impacts and Shifts in Energy Sources

For an industry traditionally supported by fossil fuels, the increasing focus on environmental concerns has caused energy companies to take a hard look at energy sources and sustainable operations practices.

“The future of our industry at our core is very strong. But we also need to respond to these pressures. Climate change is a real concern for the people we work with around the world and that will play a role in how we work,” Wirth said. He added: “moving forward we must execute well on our core business, control spending, and prepare to bring new sources of energy into the mix.”

Wirth also noted that the company is working to curb emissions and flaring ahead of regulations being implemented. More regulations on emissions are coming, he said, "the industry ought to be out front and set the right standard for decreasing emissions.” 

Focus on Future Workforce  

Wirth discussed how digitization is rapidly influencing energy operations and that companies must consider future workforce needs in order to remain competitive. One way Chevron is doing this is by making investments in education systems, particularly around STEM.

"Digital technology really changes every industry," Wirth said. "No matter what business you’re in in this room, if you think it’s not going to change, you need to look again. Energy is no different.”

Few jobs exist in the energy today that do not have some technological component. That's why it's critical for STEM education to start early, Wirth said. Chevron’s made large scale investments world wide in education, both K-12 but also in higher education and committed to support reform for education systems. “We must invest in systems that supports the talent pipeline” he said.  

Corporate Citizenship a Key Factor in Stakeholder Value

In working to advance its corporate citizenship, Chevron has put an emphasis on delivering value and accountability to a holistic set of stakeholders — not only its shareholders but also the communities they serve and operate. “We have to invest in community priorities and work with local suppliers to grow small businesses," Wirth said. "In doing this, you build economic power that improves people’s lives.”

Leading on D&I

Houston is home to more than a quarter million energy employees and a hub for energy expertise and experience. Those facts, coupled with the city's cultural and ethnic diversity, have helped bolster the talent pipelines of companies like Chevron. For Chevron, Wirth discussed how diversity and inclusion (D&I) is the easiest business case to make, adding that the company has put a strong focus a corporate culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion. “We need everyone for this industry to succeed," he said. "Diversity is an imperative for us to be competitive. Diversity is about counting every head. Inclusion is about making sure every head counts...You have to have a culture where a broad set of ideas flourish.”

Learn more about Houston's energy industry and what the Partnership’s Energy Advisory Committee is doing to advance Houston’s energy economy.

Related News

Digital Technology

Greentown Labs Selects Midtown Site for Houston Incubator

Greentown Labs, the cleantech startup incubator that earlier this summer announced plans to open a Houston facility in 2021, has chosen a spot on the south side of Midtown near the much-anticipated Ion innovation hub to build its incubator.  Greentown Houston is expected to open in spring 2021 with more than 40,000 square feet of prototyping lab, office, and community space for about 50 startup companies, totaling 200 to 300 employees. The facility will be within the footprint of Rice Management Company’s 16-acre Innovation District, anchored by the 300,000-square-foot Ion.  Greentown Labs announced its first-ever national expansion to Houston in June 2020, with the goal of accelerating the energy transition through entrepreneurship, innovation, and collaboration. Greentown is the largest climatech and cleantech incubator in North America, headquartered just outside of Boston and providing space for about 100 member companies. "In order to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, we must engage the talent and assets of major ecosystems around the country,” said Greentown Labs CEO Emily Reichert. “We look forward to catalyzing the Houston ecosystem's support for climatetech startups as we work together toward a sustainable future for all.” Greentown Houston joins a growing number of startup support organizations and startup companies already located or locating in the Midtown Innovation District, as well as Houston-based accelerator programs including MassChallenge, gener8tor, Impact Hub Houston, and others. Greentown will be located on the site of a former Fiesta grocery store.  "What we love about Greentown Labs as much as its commitment to helping Houston become a leader in energy transition and climate change action is its proven track record of job creation through the support of local visionaries and entrepreneurs," said Ryan LeVasseur, Managing Director of Direct Real Estate at RMC, the developer of The Ion and the Innovation District. "Greentown Houston, like The Ion, is a great catalyst for growing the Innovation District and expanding economic opportunities for all Houstonians. We're thrilled Greentown Labs selected Houston for its first expansion and are honored it will be such a big part of the Innovation District moving forward." The location in the Innovation District also positions Greentown Houston close to local universities with strong energy- and cleantech-focused programs, including Rice University, the University of Houston, Houston Community College, and other leading educational institutions. The site is less than two miles away from downtown Houston, and will provide entrepreneurs with access to investors and corporate and civic leaders. Finally, it’s located steps away from a Houston METRORail stop and accessible by a new, on-street protected bikeway. "We are so pleased that Greentown Houston will locate in the heart of the Innovation District, where they will seamlessly integrate into the region's robust energy innovation ecosystem of major corporate energy R&D centers, corporate venture arms, VC-backed energy startups, and other startup development organizations supporting energy technology," said Susan Davenport, Chief Economic Development Officer at the Greater Houston Partnership. "Houston truly is the hub of the global energy industry, and Greentown Houston will ensure we continue to attract the next generation of energy leaders who will create and scale innovations that will change the world." Learn more about Greentown Labs, Houston innovation and the energy industry.   
Read More

Rice Alliance Launching New Clean Energy Accelerator

The Rice Alliance is launching a clean energy accelerator in 2021 at The Ion, the innovation hub in midtown Houston.  The new hands-on, 12 week program will support early-stage energy startups from across the U.S. and around the world. Startups will have access to Rice Alliance’s network of energy corporations, energy investors, and energy advisors, and experience curriculum and programming designed to increase their likelihood of success and accelerate their path forward.   “Houston is our home, and we are strong believers in our city, " said Brad Burke, Managing Director of the Rice Alliance. "It is here that some of the greatest minds in energy are innovating. New technologies, many driven by startup companies, have enabled the US to become energy self-sufficient for the first time in history. But the global energy needs are growing and changing. So we need to apply that same entrepreneurial spirit and technology innovation to meet these challenges for the future.”  The energy accelerator will support, champion, and align with the momentum and efforts happening in Houston to further the energy transition. The Greater Houston Partnership is working alongside the business community, stakeholders, elected officials and others to identify solutions to take on the dual challenge of meeting the world’s increasing energy needs while lowering the world’s carbon footprint. Over the last year, the Partnership has been dedicated to strengthening Houston’s position by convening key leaders, advocating for sound public policy and attracting innovative companies who share this vision. “Houston truly is the hub of the global energy industry, and it is here where the next generation of energy leaders will create and scale innovations that will change the world,” said Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. “We are home to major corporate energy R&D centers, corporate venture arms, a range of VC-backed energy startups, and a host of startup development organizations supporting energy technology. Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has long served as a catalyst for positioning Houston as a leading center of technology entrepreneurship. The new Clean Energy Accelerator will build on that legacy and align with the work already taking place in Houston’s robust energy innovation ecosystem.” This announcement aligns with Rice Alliance’s 20-year anniversary. The globally recognized initiative, within the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, supports entrepreneurship education, technology commercialization, and the launch of technology companies. Since inception, Rice Alliance has connected with more than 2,675 startups that have raised $21.5 billion in funding. With a vibrant community, including more than 52,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem attending over 200 programs hosted by the Rice Alliance, the accelerator is a commitment to expand that impact and continue to support the energy transition.  Applications for startups will open in early 2021. Learn more about innovation in Houston. 
Read More

Related Events


State of the Houston Region

How will the greater Houston region continue to respond to COVID-19? Join the Greater Houston Partnership as we discuss the State of the Houston Region on September 25. This virtual event will feature a panel…

Learn More
Learn More
Executive Partners