UT Austin Energy Bulletin Nov-Dec 2016



Energy Institute releases Full Cost of Electricity Study
Energy Institute Director Dr. Tom Edgar, Deputy Director Dr. Michael Webber and Assistant Director Dr. Carey King traveled to the nation's capital in December to release a new research project, the Full Cost of Electricity, an interdisciplinary initiative aimed at identifying and quantifying the full-system cost of electric power generation and delivery – from the power plant to the wall socket. The trio, joined by the McCombs School of Business' Dr. Jim Dyer, principal investigator for the project, Energy Institute Assistant Director Dr. Fred Beach and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Josh Rhodes, participated in a press conference and briefed officials from several regulatory agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Read more.


Statoil expands fellowship program in Cockrell School of Engineering
The Cockrell School of Engineering and Jackson School of Geosciences has signed a $2.5 million renewal agreement with Norwegian energy company Statoil to expand research addressing a range of environmental and energy issues, said Prof. Jon Olson, Chair of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering. During the past five years, Statoil has supported more than 30 UT Austin graduate students through its Fellowship program. The new funding will support 11 continuing graduate student research projects and five new Statoil fellows. Read more.


Trinidad and Tobago at energy crossroads
Kevin Ramnarine, Distinguished Affiliated Scholar in the KBH Center for Energy, Law & Business, offered insights from his experiences as former Energy Minister of Trinidad and Tobago during the Center's recent symposium, "Transboundary Resource Agreements: The Gulf of Mexico-Caribbean Sea Experience." Ramnarine noted that while energy development worldwide has been on the rise, growth in Trinidad and Tobago has not kept pace. For more, read his keynote speech or presentation.


Protecting Species or Hindering Energy Development: how the Endangered Species Act affects energy projects on Western Public Lands
Since enacted more than 40 years ago, the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been one of the most celebrated – and controversial – environmental laws on the books. In a new article published in Environmental Law Reporter, UT Austin environmental law experts Melinda Taylor, executive director of UT Austin's KBH Energy Center, Romany Webb, and Vanessa Puig-Williams, delved into the ESA to see how it works in practice in light of criticisms frequently leveled its way. In a nutshell, the authors learned that only a small fraction of energy projects developed on public lands are reviewed at all under the ESA. In those cases, the process usually goes quickly for the majority of oil and gas projects, but there tends to be lengthy and complicated consultation on solar energy and wind energy projects. Read more.




LBJ School receives $1.25 million to continue studying barriers to solar adoption
LBJ School of Public Affairs Prof. Varun Rai has received a $1.25 million grant from SunShot Initiative, a Department of Energy (DOE) project designed to accelerate the adoption of solar energy technologies throughout the U.S. The grant will enable Dr. Rai to continue his research in the diffusion of clean energy technologies and barriers to solar adoption. Ultimately, Rai hopes to provide policymakers and solar industry representatives the information they need to make decisions affecting future PV costs and deployment. Read more.


Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department offers students unique opportunity to refine data analysis skills
UT Austin students wanting to hone their data analyzation skills have a unique opportunity to work in a lab dedicated to big data and automation, thanks to the foresight and vision of UT Austin Engineering Prof. Dr. Eric van Oort. Four years ago, van Oort launched a state-of-the-art real-time operations center in UT's famed Petroleum and Geosystems Department. In 2016, he took his research program to a new level with creation of his Rig Automation Performance Improvement in Drilling program. The program's goal is to provide undergraduate and graduate students the experience they need to work in today's changing oil and gas industry. Read more.


TexNet to begin research into cause of increased seismicity
Earthquakes with a magnitude of 3.0 and above have become increasingly common in the Central and Eastern U.S. over the last several years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In order to better understand the cause of this increased seismic activity, Dr. Alexandros Savvaidis and his TexNet team at UT Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology will begin conducting research in the Fort Worth basin by the end of 2016. TexNet, funded by the Texas legislature, is examining the possible link between the increased frequency of earthquakes and the disposal of wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing. The team's goal is to provide empirical data and assistance to state lawmakers and regulators. Read more.




Saving U.S. coal industry will be difficult campaign promise for Trump to keep
President-Elect Donald Trump's pledge to resurrect the U.S. coal industry will be a difficult promise to keep, write Drs. Michael Webber and David Spence in two recent opinion pieces. In his op-ed in the New York Times, Webber argues that improving coal's fate would require significant market interventions in conflict with historic Republican support for competitive markets. Trump also has said he may open more federal lands to oil, gas and coal production, but the resulting oversupply of energy would only make it harder for coal companies to stay profitable, Webber notes. Spence's column in Fortune magazine points out that if Trump were to repeal EPA rules aimed at reducing air pollution and rescind America's commitment to the Paris Accord on climate change, individual states would still have to approve construction of new coal-fired power plants – unlikely, given the growing preference for renewable forms of energy for electricity generation. Webber and Spence concur that market realities – namely cheap, plentiful natural gas, and declining prices for wind and solar power, do not bode well for coal, no matter what the Trump Administration does.




Registration open for UT Energy Week
February 7 – 10, 2017

Registration is now open for the third annual UT Energy Week, a forum for energy experts from academia, industry, government and regulatory agencies, and the non-profit world. The 2017 `conference program features panelists and speakers representing diverse perspectives on a range of topical issues, emerging trends and contentious developments in the rapidly evolving world of energy. UT Energy Week is co-hosted by the university's Energy Institute, the KBH Center for Energy, Law & Business, and two student organizations, the Longhorn Energy Club and the Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law, along with support from schools, colleges and other units engaged in energy research. Most activities will be held in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, February 7 – 10, 2017. View the conference program to learn more about the event and register.


Dr. Michael Young
Bureau of Economic Geology,
Jackson School of Geosciences

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