Steelman Discussion: Should ERCOT Interconnect (Synchronize) with the Eastern or Western Interconnect?

Event Status
Michael Webber
Professor, John J. McKetta Centennial Energy Chair in Engineering
Carey King
Research Scientist and Assistant Director, Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin


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Dr. Michael E. Webber is the John J. McKetta Centennial Energy Chair in Engineering in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and CTO of Energy Impact Partners, a $3 billion cleantech venture fund. From September 2018 to August 2021, Webber was based in Paris, France where he served as the Chief Science and Technology Officer at ENGIE, a global energy & infrastructure services company with 170,000 employees worldwide. Webber’s expertise spans research and education at the convergence of engineering, policy, and commercialization on topics related to innovation, energy, and the environment. His book Power Trip: the Story of Energy was published in 2019 by Basic Books with an award-winning 6-part companion series that aired on PBS, Amazon Prime and AppleTV starting Earth Day 2020. The series had more than 7000 broadcasts in the United States and has been distributed in dozens of countries, ultimately reaching millions of viewers. The second season of Power Trip will air on PBS in September 2023. He was selected as a Fellow of ASME (the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and as a member of the 4th class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars, which is a leadership training program organized by Presidents George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Webber has authored four full-length general interest books, created two interactive textbooks, written more than 500 publications, and been awarded 6 patents. He serves on the advisory board for Scientific American and GTI Energy (an industry consortium formerly known as the Gas Technology Institute). A successful entrepreneur, Webber was one of three founders in 2015 for an educational technology startup, DISCO Learning Media, which was acquired in 2018. Webber holds a B.S. and B.A. from UT Austin, and M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He was honored as an American Fellow of the German Marshall Fund and an AT&T Industrial Ecology Fellow on four separate occasions by the University of Texas for exceptional teaching.

Dr. Carey W King is a Research Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin and Assistant Director at the Energy Institute.  He is the author of the book The Economic Superorganism.  Dr. King performs interdisciplinary research related to how energy systems interact within the economy and environment as well as how our policy and social systems can make decisions and tradeoffs among these often competing factors.  Carey’s research goals center on rigorous interpretations of the past to determine the most probable future energy pathways. He reaches these goals by bridging the gaps between economic and biophysical (or ecological) worldviews of economic growth and structural change.


The electric grid of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) serves 90% of the electricity demand in Texas and resides completely within the borders of the state.  For historical commercial and political reasons, the “Texas grid” was not synchronized with the other two major electric grids of the U.S. (and North America), the Eastern and Western Interconnects. Even though there are small capacity direct current connections (DC ties) to the other grids, ERCOT remains unsynchronized today.  This means electricity generation in ERCOT, about 10% of U.S. electricity, does not trigger interstate commerce, and thus ERCOT does not fall completely under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  This symposium will discuss the pros and cons of ERCOT connecting synchronously with either (or both) of the Eastern and Western Interconnect grids in the U.S.  We will attempt to “steelman” (the opposite of a strawman) several arguments.

Note: This talk will be presented remotely via Zoom Webinar and on the Energy Institute's YouTube channel. If using Zoom, viewers must register for an account with Zoom and log in to Zoom using that registration in order to use the meeting link and participate. Faculty, students and staff of UT, please use your personal UT Zoom account. 

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Date and Time
Oct. 17, 2023, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
In Person EER 3.646 or Stream Online (via Zoom or YouTube)
Event tags
UT Energy Symposium