JERA, the U.S. branch of Japan’s largest electric utility, doubles its growth in Houston

A U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s largest power generation company is doubling down on investments in Texas — and increasing its workforce in Houston and expanding its offices in the process.

JERA Americas, JERA’s US subsidiary based in Tokyo, is planning a series of renewable energy projects in Texas after increasing its stake in Freeport LNG. The Texas investments add to its growing presence in the Northeast, where it invests in power plants. To support its growth, JERA is moving its North American headquarters from the Galleria area to larger digs in downtown Houston, with plans to double its workforce over the next two to three years.

JERA has grown its number of U.S. employees from about six in 2013 to 90, including 70 in Houston, said Steve Winn, general manager of JERA Americas. Last year, JERA hired 35 employees and expects to exceed that growth this year. JERA also has a regional office in San Francisco and a virtual office in New Jersey.

“Even with COVID, we’re building some momentum,” Winn said. “We may be different from some energy companies in Houston because we’re not guided by short-term commodity prices.”

Long-term contracts to supply LNG to Japan and investments in renewable energy give the company a business model to grow through the energy transition, Winn said. JERA, which stands for Japanese Energy for a New Era, supplies 30% of Japan’s electricity, according to the company.

In December, JERA moved from its 11,000 square foot office at 1980 Post Oak into the Galleria at 1000 Main, Union Investments’ 36-story downtown office tower.

JERA is in temporary space while contractors construct the nearly 30,000 square foot office on the 31st floor of 1000 Main. The new offices more than double JERA’s former space in the Galleria. Winn said.

The tower is the same building where Shell recently renewed a 259,000 square foot lease in what was Houston’s largest office deal of 2021, according to Madison Marquette, who leases the building on behalf of landlord Union Investments.

Built in 2003, 1000 Main has undergone many renovations over the past few years. Last year, Union Investments hired architectural firm Gensler to design upgrades to a 12,500 square foot tenant amenity center, which includes a restaurant, lounge, and barista-style coffee station. Renters can access a host of perks such as a conference center, fitness center, and even a game room with a pool table, shuffleboard, televisions, and two Top Golf simulators.

During the pandemic, it’s been difficult for owners of older buildings in the city center to compete with newer buildings coming onto the market, said Newmark’s Joshua Brown, who helped represent JERA as part of the OK.

But Union Investments put together a package that made its space more attractive, including providing temporary office space and helping to cover renovation costs, Brown noted in an interview.

Winn joined JERA in 2017, but the company has roots in Houston since 2013, when one of JERA’s owners, Chubu Electric Power Co. Inc., opened an office in the city with a few employees who oversaw the company’s investments. company in Freeport LNG. , according to the media. In 2015, this office became the North American office of a new joint venture, called JERA, formed when Chubu merged with TEPCO Fuel & Power., another Japanese energy company.

JERA Americas then began buying stakes in natural gas power plants. Today, after recently investing in a German hydrogen fuel company, JERA is modifying two of its Northeast power plants to allow them to use a mixture of hydrogen and natural gas, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning gas alone.

The company also wants to grow its portfolio of natural gas power plants by around 1,500 megawatts. today to about 5,000 to 7,000 megawatts in North America by 2025, Winn said. One megawatt is enough electricity to power about 200 Texas homes on a hot summer day.

JERA also aims to achieve 2,000 megawatts of renewable power generation in North America by 2025, Winn said.

To that end, in December, JERA Americas purchased the El Sauz Wind Energy Project from Apex Clean Energy in Willacy County, southeast Texas. Construction of the 300 megawatt wind project is expected to begin early this year and operations are expected to begin by the fourth quarter of 2022.

JERA Americas is also planning to develop 4,000 megawatts of wind, solar and energy storage projects, Osaid the inn. The company expects to announce about 600 to 800 megawatts of solar energy projects in the Texas market, he said.

The investments come after JERA reached a previously announced $2.5 billion deal this week to acquire a 25.7% stake in the development entity that runs Freeport LNG from Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm with offices in New York and London. The deal gives the parent company of Jera, the world’s largest LNG buyer, better access to North American liquefied natural gas.

Access to Houston’s talent pool and network of energy companies makes the region an attractive location to launch JERA’s ambitions in the United States, Winn said.

“We [have seen] a lot of commitment from us [Tokyo] headquarters for expansion into the US market,” said Winn. “From [a standpoint of] building infrastructure quickly is easier to do here than in other places.

[email protected], @marissaluck7

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