Masters students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs recently completed a year-long policy research project (PRP) in which they examined new business models for electric utilities. The course, co-taught by Energy Institute Assistant Director for Policy Studies Dr. Fred Beach and Research Fellow Roger Duncan, explored current and future incentives and subsidies for electrical generation and the impact of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar on utilities’ bottom line. In their final report, part of the Energy Institute’s Full Cost of Electricity study, PRP students found that decentralized forms of electricity generation could lead investor-owned utilities to opt for a nonprofit business model employed by electric co-ops and municipally owned systems.
UT Austin’s Center for Electromechanics (CEM) has been awarded $1.6 million to develop systems for real-time grid monitoring and modeling of electricity usage from Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as rooftop solar photovoltaics and energy storage systems. The project, led by CEM Director Dr. Bob Hebner, will include GPS information in line monitoring software to help spatially locate problems unique to rural areas. For example, Hebner hopes to quantify differences in residential customer solar in less dense systems operated by rural electric co-ops. The research project is part of a $10 million investment by the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative, a comprehensive effort designed to solve challenges associated with further integration of renewable sources of energy to the grid, while ensuring its reliability and resilience. Read more.
UT Austin energy researchers David Allen, Melinda Taylor, Bob Metcalfe and Michael Young participated in a recent study coordinated by the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) on the environmental and community impacts of shale gas development in Texas. The TAMEST Shale Task Force, composed of a diverse set of experts from academia, environmental organizations, the oil and gas industry and state regulatory agencies, collected the best science available about shale oil and gas development, with a focus on six key areas: seismicity, land, air, water, transportation, and economic and social impacts. The report provides findings for each of the six study areas, and identifies and offers recommendations for future research opportunities. For more, read the TAMEST press release or the full report.
Some of the world’s leading energy experts will present their research on the most vital and controversial energy issues facing society during the second annual UT Energy Journalism Workshop, Sept. 27-28. The two-day workshop is a crash course for journalists who cover energy and the environment on a regular basis, featuring a rapid-fire series of presentations and panel discussions. UT Austin researchers participating in the workshop will explore a wide range of topics – the rapid growth of distributed generation resources and the evolving electric grid, the prospects for carbon capture and sequestration, the latest research into methane hydrates, and new trends in sustainable building design. The event, hosted by the university’s Energy Institute, School of Journalism, and Kay Bailey Center for Energy, Law & Business, will be held in the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the UT Austin campus. Read more.
Imposing a price on carbon would inject certainty into the marketplace, spur innovation, simplify a patchwork of state and local regulations, and create a lot of jobs. Enacting legislation that puts a price on carbon also would represent a big political win for Pres. Trump, writes Energy Institute Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Josh Rhodes in a new op-ed published in Fortune magazine. For all 10 reasons why a price on carbon is an idea whose time has come, read the entire op-ed.
Whether we recognize it or not, physical resource constraints such as the rate of power consumption and the cost of food and energy eventually translate into economic constraints that govern our lives, writes Energy Institute Assistant Dr. Carey King in a new opinion piece based on his research. Understanding resource constraints also can be instructive with respect to how society chooses to distribute wealth, King argues. For more, read the entire op-ed, published in the Austin American-Statesman, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, and Psychology Today.
LBJ School Prof. Varun Rai participated in a new study led by Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets & Policy Group entitled Sources of Price Dispersion in U.S. Residential Solar Installations. The report, funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, identifies key drivers for price dispersion among residential photovoltaic systems (PV). Among other findings, researchers found that while the average cost of residential solar PV systems has declined dramatically over the past decade, people within the same region can pay dramatically different prices for essentially the same system. For more, download the full report here.
Extending the life of U.S. nuclear plants would require large capital investments that are difficult to justify under existing market conditions, write researchers at UT Austin’s Center for Energy Economics (CEE), a unit within UT Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences. The Center’s dispatch modeling tested the retirement of 43 GW of nuclear capacity by 2025 as part of its Electric Power Research Forum, which focuses on the forces disrupting electric power markets.