Centers | EMIC

2011 Austin Electricity Conference

Date and Location

April 7-8, 2011
AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
1900 University Avenue
Austin, TX 78705

Production of electricity in the United States is entering a period of dramatic transformation. Yet, despite broad-based support for a smarter energy grid in many states and the federal government, a combination of socioeconomic, technological, and legal barriers sometimes impede deployment of smart grid systems. The barriers include information gaps, capital constraints, poor pricing methods, and outdated laws. Market failures also exist in the form of network effects, high transaction costs, and technology spillovers from investments in learning-by-doing. It is clear that large-scale transformation of the electric utility sector will not occur unless these barriers are better understood, and then neutralized or circumvented.

The University of Texas Interdisciplinary Energy Conference will examine mechanisms for overcoming barriers to deployment of smarter electric power systems and technologies. Topics discussed will address three primary sources of change:

  1. New business models and consumer acceptance of smart-grid technologies
  2. Institutions that facilitate deployment of smart grids and reduction of electricity demand
  3. Promoting interoperability of smart-grid technology standards. The final panel will provide a view from the field of current trends and challenges. 
Participants will span multiple disciplines and will be drawn from universities, the private sector, and government. The conference will bring these diverse perspectives to bear on the key questions relating to smart grid penetration.

For more general information on the Austin Electricity Conference, including links to other past conferences click here.


All events take place at the AT&T Center, 1900 University Avenue, Austin, Texas 78705

Conference Agenda

Day 1:
8:30-9:30 a.m.: Registration and Breakfast
9:30-9:45 a.m.: Introduction and Conference Overview
9:45-12:30 p.m.: Panel on Smart Grid Dynamics: Business Models & Consumer Acceptance
10:30-10:45 a.m.: Coffee Break
12:30-1:30 p.m.: Lunch – Speaker: Trip Doggett, President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas
1:30-2:00 p.m.: Break
2:00-4:30 p.m.: Panel on Regulatory and Ratemaking Treatment of the Smart Grid
3:30-3:45 p.m.: Coffee Break
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Dinner / Austin Clean Energy Forum (optional event)

Day 2:
8:30-9:30 a.m.: Breakfast
9:30-12:00 p.m.: Panel on Smart-Grid Standard Setting and Interoperability
10:00-10:30 a.m.: Coffee Break
12:00-1:00 p.m.: Lunch – Speaker: Barry Smitherman, Chair, Texas Public Utility Commission
1:00-3:30 p.m.: Panel on A View From the Field
3:30-4:30 p.m.: Facilitated Discussion on Research Priorities and Opportunities

Keynote Speakers

Trip Doggett, President and CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas
Barry Smitherman, Chair, Texas Public Utility Commission


Smart Grid Dynamics: Business Models & Consumer Acceptance

David Spence, University of Texas, McCombs School of Business
Panelists/Speakers: Elke Weber, Brewster McCracken, Ahmad Faruqui, Stephen Holland, Lynne Kiesling, Amanda Carrico

One of the most important features of smart grids is the measure of control they afford grid operators over electricity demand. Two-way information sharing and controls will enable demand to be influenced indirectly through real-time pricing of electricity and directly through active grid-operator control of key energy appliances/equipment otherwise under the control of end users. Integration of new technologies hold out the promise of reducing peak demand and facilitating efficient uses of off-peak electric power sources. These benefits will not be realized, however, without consumer acceptance. Consumers may be unwilling to make positive net benefit investments, because costs are more immediate and salient and benefits, because they resist change, or for other reasons. The insights of behavioral economics provide important insights for developing effective pricing models, as well as promoting consumer acceptance of new energy services and technologies essential to demand-side grid management. This panel will explore the lessons behavioral research may hold for the question of consumer acceptance of smart grid technologies.

Regulatory and Ratemaking Treatment of the Smart Grid

 Jim Rossi, Florida State University College of Law
Panelists/Speakers: Suedeen Kelly, Frank Wolak, Branko Terzic, Bill Hogan, Jess Totten

Smart Grid investments offered the prospect of realizing a wide variety of benefits, from more efficient consumption of electricity to more efficient use of the transmission grid, and more. A new generation of policies and electricity pricing models will be needed to reduce aggregate electricity demand through enhanced use of energy efficient technologies. While most analysts agree that the benefits of smart technologies exceed their costs, there remain significant disputes about who should pay for these investments, and about dynamic pricing and other great innovations made possible by smart meters. This panel will explore the regulatory, ratemaking another policy dimensions of movement to a smarter electric grid.

Smart-Grid Standard Setting and Interoperability

Ross Baldick, University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering
Panelists/Speakers: Bert Haskell, Parviz Adib, Andres Carvallo, Bill Muston, Mark Rose, Rik Drummond

The existence of multiple standards limits the interoperability of smart grids, which can impede consumer acceptance and increase distributor costs. Smart grid innovation and deployment in the U.S. may be severely constrained absent legal and technical frameworks for interoperability—i.e., a suite of standards that enable the integration of diverse technologies. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has ―primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework . . . to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems . . . While NIST may be well suited to addressing the technical questions, it lacks expertise in developing an effective institutional model to safeguard the independence of standard setting organizations. Furthermore, many widespread technical standards have developed through industry-driven or professional society-driven initiatives, while premature setting of standards can be an impediment to technical development. Related jurisdictional questions also exist about which federal agency (e.g., Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Communications Commission) will have primary regulatory responsibility over smart grids and how technological choices will make the case for one agency over another weaker or stronger.

A View From the Field

Moderator: Michael Webber, University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering
Panelists/Speakers: Gus Lott and Roger Duncan, David Ozment, Stephen Morisseau

This panel will bring together several prominent people in the private and public sectors to discuss current trends and challenges in the deployment and regulation of smart grids. The session will be used to ground the discussion of key issues affecting smart grids and promising policies emerging in the field. Central objectives will include synthesizing the issues discussed during the conference, developing a core set of recommendations for policymakers, and identifying the most pressing gaps in existing research programs.


Preliminary Participant List

1. David Adelman, Univ. of Texas/School of Law
2. Parviz Adib, Pionergy Consulting
3. Ross Baldick, Univ. of Texas, Dept/Electrical Engineering
4. Suzanne Barber, Univ. of Texas/Electrical Engineering
5. Isaac Barchas, Austin Technology Incubator
6. Jan Beyea, Consulting in the Public Interest
7. Mark Bruce, Stratus Energy Group
8. John C. Butler, Univ. of Texas/McCombs School of Business
9. Amanda Carrico, Vanderbilt University/Psychology
10. Andres Carvallo, GridNet
11. Charlie Cooke, Energy Institute
12. John Dernbach, Widener School of Law
13. Trip Doggett, ERCOT (CEO)
14. Rik Drummond, The Drummond Group
15. Roger Duncan, Austin Energy
16. Thomas Edgar, Univ. of Texas/Chemical Engineering
17. Ahmad Faruqui, Brattle Group
18. Bert Haskell, Pecan Street Project
19. William Hogan, Harvard/Kennedy School & Electricity Group
20. Stephen Holland, UNC-Greensboro/Economics
21. Monty Humble, Attorney
22. Mitch Jacobson, Clean Technology Incubator
23. Jerry Jackson, Texas A&M/Economics
24. Suedeen Kelly, Patton Boggs/former FERC Commissioner (active in NIST group)
25. Lynne Keisling, Northwestern University/Kellogg School
26. Bob King - The Good Company
27. Rebecca Klein, Klein Energy
28. Hariharan Krishnaswami, U Texas-San Antonio/Electrical Engineering
29. Erin Mansur, Dartmouth/Economics
30. Gus Lott, Yarcom
31. Stephen Littlechild (UK Regulator)
32. Jim Marston, Environmental Defense Fund*
33. Brewster McCracken, City of Austin Pecan Street Project
34. Bill Muston, Oncor
35. Ray Orbach, Univ. of Texas/Energy Institute
36. David Ozment, Walmart
37. Brett Perlman, Vector Advisors
38. Mark Rose, Bluebonnet Electric Coop
39. Jim Rossi, Florida State University School of Law
40. Eric Schubert, BP
41. John Schulz, AT&T
42. Les Shephard, UTSA/College of Engineering
43. Barry Smitherman, Texas PUC
44. David Spence, Univ. of Texas/Business & Law
45. Branko Terzic, Deloitte/former FERC and Wisconsin PUC Commissioner
46. Sheridan Titman, Univ. of Texas/McCombs School of Business
47. Susan Tomasky, AEP Transmission*
48. Jess Totten, Texas PUC
49. Michael Webber, Univ. of Texas/Geosciences & Mechanical Engineering
50. Elke Weber, Columbia University/International Business & Decision Sciences
51. Frank Wolak, Stanford/Economics
* Names in italics have been invited but are not yet confirmed

Conference Organizing Committee

Hotel and Logistics:

Gena Dawson, Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law & UT School of Law, (512) 475-9328,

Sponsorship and Meeting Coordinator:

David Adelman, UT School of Law, (512) 232-0877,

Panel Moderators:

David Spence, Red McCombs School of Business, (512) 471-0778,
Jim Rossi, Florida State University College of Law, (850) 644-6022,
Ross Baldick, Cockrell School of Engineering, (512) 471-5879,
Michael Webber, Webber Energy Group & Cockrell School of Engineering, (512) 475-6867,

Page last updated: 4/4/2014