West Texas Talk: Dr Todd Davidson & Dr Joshua Rhodes Of UT Austin’s Energy Institute

On this segment of NPR's West Texas Talk, Lorne Matalon speaks with Dr Todd Davidson and Dr Joshua Rhodes, energy scientists based at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute. The interdisciplinary institute is comprised of scholars and researchers who focus on the intersection of energy economics and technology.

Dr Todd Davidson (L) and his colleague Dr Joshua Rhodes on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. (photo: Lorne Matalon)


Rhodes was a lead investigator on a seminal report, The Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-), an initiative that as the the report's summary states, "to quantify the full-system cost of electric power generation and delivery from the power plant to the wall socket," and in so doing, impart substantive data that industry decision-makers, urban planners and politicians can deploy. The project includes expert analysis and perspectives of UT faculty from engineering, economics, law and policy.

Rhodes and Dr Davidson both research energy's trajectory as electric power and the infrastructure that delivers it is undergoing change. In addition, on this segment of West Texas Talk, both weigh in on the future of renewable energy and electric cars. From the The Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-) report;

"Declining renewable energy costs, stringent emissions standards, low-price natural gas, competitive electricity markets, and a host of technological innovations are changing the landscape of an industry that has remained static for decades."

Research behind The Full Cost of Electricity (FCe-),includes the creation of an interactive map illustrating the least expensive energy technology by county for different cost scenarios. The findings were unveiled in Washington DC to an audience that included officials from several regulatory agencies, including the Department of Energy, (DOE) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (FERC) Presenters included Energy Institute Director Dr. Tom Edgar, Deputy Director Dr. Michael Webber, Assistant Director Dr. Carey King and Assistant Director for for Energy & Technology Policy at the Energy Institute, Dr. Fred Beach. They were joined for the report's unveiling by UT Austin McCombs School of Business’ Dr. Jim Dyer.

Researchers analyzed data for the most competitive sources of new electricity generation. Wind proved to be the lowest-cost option for a broad swath of the country, from the High Plains and Midwest and into Texas. Natural gas prevailed for much of the remainder of the U.S. while nuclear was found to be the lowest-cost option in 400 out of 3,110 counties nationwide. Here is additional analysis by Energy Institute Research Fellow David Tuttle.