Race to Net Zero - Episode 2

Race to Net-Zero - Episode 2

Outlining your journey: Houston's landmark Climate Action Plan, with Priya Zachariah



This episode is made in partnership with NRG Energy.

The Race to Net-Zero podcast is a six-episode series featuring conversations with energy experts and representatives from businesses that have committed to net-zero carbon emissions.

In this episode, host John Failla sits down with Priya Zachariah, Chief Resilience and Sustainability Officer for the City of Houston, and Greg Kandankulam, Director of Sustainability Advisory at NRG. They discuss the importance of the sustainability goal-setting process and programs the city of Houston has implemented to achieve its ambitious public commitments.


In today's episode, we cover...

  • Elements of goal setting [08:09]
  • Keys to net-zero success [11:43]
  • Public sector vs. private sector [14:53]
  • Sustainability and resiliency in Houston [16:44]
  • Advantages of a multidisciplinary approach [21:23]
  • Current approaches and concerns [27:16]
  • Effective partnerships [34:03]


Houston’s sustainability efforts

Pursuing resiliency and sustainability involves more than one actor. The process requires many individuals and agencies to come together and establish a common vision.

In the days after Hurricane Harvey, the mayor of Houston brought others together to establish a resilience framework that became known as "Resilient Houston." Under the umbrella of Resilient Houston, the city also has a Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from key polluting sectors and calls for Houston to be net-zero by 2050.


Equity in initiatives

The Resilient Houston framework recognizes that underlying stresses in a community, particularly socio-economic disparities, put communities at an extra disadvantage as they deal with more frequent climate events. These events leave them in a constant cycle of need and recovery.

The energy industry must target building resilience, not just as a response to climate events, but also to address underlying socioeconomic disparities and vulnerabilities. Resilient Houston plays that role by placing equity at the center of many of its initiatives.

Houston recognizes that resilience and sustainability efforts must be addressed at multiple scales simultaneously including individual Houstonians, households, large systems like the transportation and bayou networks, and city-wide.

Progress must be made with a shared vision and clear mission in order to mobilize people and make meaningful progress.


Effective partnerships

The work in Houston would not have been possible without multiple agencies and actors working together. The Sunnyside Landfill Solar Project is an excellent example of private and public collaboration, as the city of Houston worked with the private sector, solar developers, utilities, and the community to create what will be the largest solar farm on an urban landfill in the country.

As part of NRG’s contract to take the city of Houston to 100% renewable powered electricity, NRG also provided value-added services for sustainability consulting and heat mitigation strategies. Part of that process was considering the resiliency needs in underserved communities.

NRG works within an ecosystem seeking partners to help strengthen their collective efforts with the city. Those partnerships are used to address a multitude of issues as the climate continues to evolve. Together, they are creating resiliency programs designed to maintain economic viability, protect healthcare outcomes, and ensure citizens' daily energy needs are met.


Resources and People Mentioned



Connect with Priya Zachariah


Connect with Greg Kandankulam


Connect with NRG Energy

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