The latest on all things energy on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

UT Austin Energy Bulletin May 2017



De-carbonizing the electric grid focus of 7th annual Austin Electricity Conference
Market conditions will continue to drive a movement toward de-carbonization of the nation's electric grid despite the rescinding of stringent anti-pollution measures put in place by former President Obama, noted panelists at the 2017 Austin Electric Conference. Experts drawn from academia, industry, government, and non-profit organizations engaged in a debate of economic, engineering, legal, and policy issues related to a steep growth trajectory in renewable energy that poses challenges for electric grid operators, regulators, policymakers, and industry participants. Read more.


Bureau of Economic Geology launches EarthDate radio program
UT Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology has created a new radio program – EarthDate – that that introduces listeners to many of the planet's intricate geologic and atmospheric workings and complexities in two-minute episodes narrated by the Bureau's Director, Dr. Scott Tinker. The program will feature 13 new installments each quarter and will draw on experts around the world, including researchers from the Jackson School of Geosciences, of which the Bureau is a major research unit. Listeners can enjoy the first 10 two-minute episodes of EarthDate free of charge.




'Are solar and wind really killing coal, nuclear and grid reliability?'
New research from UT Austin examines the effect of increased amounts of renewable energy on electric grid reliability and the status of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. In a new op-ed published in The Conversation, Energy Institute Postdoctoral Researcher Dr. Joshua Rhodes, Institute Deputy Director Dr. Michael Webber, Institute Research Associate Dr. Todd Davidson and Graduate Research Assistant Thomas Deetjen note that significant amounts of solar power would increase annual grid management costs by $10 million, while reducing annual wholesale electricity costs by $900 million. The article also points out that new natural gas combined cycle power plants can be built for about one-sixth the cost of a new nuclear plant, are almost twice as efficient, and can be added in smaller increments, making them easier to finance. For more, read the entire op-ed and coverage of this new research in Vox.




Distributed Energy Resources could trigger transformation of traditional electric utility business model
The nation's electric utilities will have trouble making a profit in a future dominated by widespread adoption of rooftop solar and other Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), writes Energy Institute Research Fellow Roger Duncan in a new op-ed. The article features findings from a report prepared by LBJ School of Public Affairs students participating in a Public Policy Research course Duncan co-taught this spring with Energy Institute Assistant Director for Policy Studies Dr. Fred Beach. Students examined six new and proposed business models and analyzed each of them with respect to how they recovered fixed costs, made a profit, incentivized DERs, engaged customers, and other issues. For more, read the entire op-ed and the students' report, which is a part of the Energy Institute's comprehensive "Full Cost of Electricity" study.


Center for Energy Economics releases report on the future of competitive electricity markets
UT Austin's Center for Energy Economics has undertaken a holistic, multi‐jurisdictional analysis of the U.S electric power industry in a period of transformative change. The Center, a unit in the Bureau of Economic Geology within the Jackson School of Geosciences, delves into the complex web of technological advances relating to both supply and demand and examines what is achievable within the construct of competitive markets. For more, read the Center's research, which describes experts' views on market structures, with a focus on the future of competitive electricity markets.


LBJ School, Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute launch low-income profile research project
LBJ School of Public Affairs Professor Dr. Heath Prince will lead a team of graduate students in a new Public Research Project sponsored by the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI), an Austin-based non-profit organization dedicated to addressing a growing energy-poverty nexus in Texas. Researchers will help identify Texas' low-income energy customers and help develop sustainable solutions designed to mitigate their home energy costs and associated hardships. Read more about the project here.




2017 Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo
June 25 – 28 | Austin Convention Center

UT Austin's Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) will again play a prominent role in the 2017 Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo, June 25 - 28 at the Austin Convention Center. This year's program will feature a variety of industry focus areas, including energy solutions, transportation, cyber security, buildings and efficiency, and water/wastewater management. Working with, ATI, part of UT's IC2 Institute, will help judge a pitch competition for startups working with new technologies aimed at helping cities solve major challenges in transportation, health, energy and pollution. Several UT Austin faculty members will speak at the conference, including Dr. Michael Webber, deputy director of the university's Energy Institute, who will participate in a panel on March 30 entitled, "Austin Roadshow – Smart Cities Powered by Smart Grids." For more details, view the conference program or register.


Cliff Frohlich
Senior Research Scientist & Associate Director
Institute for Geophysics
Jackson School of Geosciences

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