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    2015 AEC: The Nexus of Markets and the Environment

    Thursday & Friday April 9-10, 2015

2015 Austin Electricity Conference

The 5th Annual Austin Electricity Conference will once again convene a diverse group of experts from across the country to explore issues in the industry. The conference is an annual, invitation-only conclave of engineers, economists, policymakers, lawyers and other experts in the electric utility industry, drawn from academia, industry, government, and NGOs. The conference follows the Aspen Institute model, in which extended plenary discussions are organized around short (less than 10 min.) panel presentations so as to promote cross disciplinary discussion among the invited participants. In this way, the model treats all invited participants as "presenters" and puts less emphasis on formal panel presentations.

The conference will be held at the AT&T Conference Center and Hotel in Austin, Texas.

If you need an accommodation to participate in this event, please contact Jessica Miller no later than five business days prior to the event.

Click here for the list of 2015 AEC participants.

Click the "Presentations" tab below to view the available presentations from this year's conference.

Day 1 Schedule

Thursday, April 9, 2015


8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Registration and Breakfast

9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m.  Classroom 105

Introduction and Conference Overview
David Spence, University of Texas at Austin
9:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Classroom 105

Panel 1 Discussion:  The Benefits and Costs of Pushing Renewables
Moderator: Varun Rai

10:45 a.m.-11:00 a.m. Coffee Break
12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m. Classroom 103 Lunch with Keynote Speaker, John Hewa
1:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Classroom 105

Panel 2 Discussion: Integrating Distributed Energy Resources
Moderator: Ross Baldick

2:45 p.m.-3:00 p.m. Coffee Break 
4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Tejas Dining Room 


Day 2 Schedule

Friday, April 10, 2015

8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. Breakfast 
9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Classroom 105

Panel 3 Discussion: EPA Rules and Electric Supply/Reliability
Moderator: Melinda Taylor

10:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m. Coffee Break 
11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Classroom 103 Lunch with Keynote Speaker, Christoph Weber
1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Classroom 105

Panel 4 Discussion: Privatization: Building a Market in Mexico
Moderator: Erika Benson

2:00 p.m.-2:15 p.m. Coffee Break 
3:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Wrap Up
David Spence, University of Texas at Austin


Panel 1: The Benefits and Costs of Pushing Renewables

The German Energywiende used aggressive feed-in tariffs and other incentives to stimulate the broad penetration of wind and solar generation into the German market, but at considerable cost to the German taxpayer. Some U.S. states (California and Minnesota among them) are following the German example by using aggressive renewable portfolio standards and other state laws to push renewables development. Other states, like Texas, have supported transmission infrastructure as a way to support renewable generation, but otherwise left generation planning mostly to the market. Meanwhile, the costs of wind and solar generation (at least, at utility scale) are rapidly declining. Should American states pursue and Energywiende of their own?

Panel 2: Integrating Distributed Energy Resources

The proliferation of rooftop solar and other forms of distributed generation has raised the question of whether DG should be treated/managed behind the meter and used to support demand response? Or, alternatively, should DG and DR (collectively, distributed energy resources, or DER) be integrated into a centrally managed grid? New York and California, among other U.S. states have begun proceedings to study the integration of DER into central grid management. How should DR/DG be included in the planning forecasts that inform transmission and distribution infrastructure expansion? The resolution of these questions has implications for grid planning, who controls and benefits from DER resources, and how.

Panel 3: EPA rules and Electric Supply/Reliability

A large number of EPA rules aimed at reducing emissions from fossil-fueled power plants are coming into effect over the next few years, as are other EPA rules that will impose additional costs on fossil-fueled generators. It is anticipated that these rules will trigger some additional plant closures. What will be the impact of these rules on the reliability of the electric system? What role will renewables play in response to these new restrictions on fossil fuel emissions? How can RTOs/ISOs and PUCs respond to best meet their reliability goals in the coming years?

Panel 4: Privatization: Building a Market in Mexico

Lost in all the attention paid to the impending (partial) opening of the Mexican oil and gas market is that Mexico is also moving toward an opening of its electricity market. The Mexican regulator is working on the design of a more open, competitive generation market. What will that new market look like? What opportunities does it present for non-Mexican firms? What relevant lessons from U.S. restructuring experiences are applicable to the Mexican transition? What are the opportunities and implications for cross-border electricity trade and infrastructure coordination?

Keynote Speakers

Thursday - John Hewa

John Hewa pic 3 John D. Hewa is CEO of Pedernales Electric Cooperative, the nation’s largest electric distribution cooperative. PEC provides energy services to the Texas Hill Country, one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, bordering the cities of Austin and San Antonio. PEC has been serving the Texas Hill Country for nearly 77 years and its early founders included then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson. Today, PEC serves over 265,000 homes and businesses in an 8,100-square-mile territory.

John’s experience spans leadership roles in the municipal, cooperative and energy research sectors. John brings an innovative approach and perspective on utility management, energy delivery systems, telecommunications, and grid technology solutions.

Prior to joining PEC, John served as the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Vice President of Research, Engineering and Technical Services in Arlington, VA. John’s role at NRECA included leading the Energy and Power Division, addressing technical regulatory matters at the federal level, and heading up NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network, facilitating the advancement of beneficial technologies among the nation’s electric cooperative network.

Earlier in his career, John served as General Manager of Talquin Electric Cooperative and Talquin Water and Wastewater, delivering utility services in north Florida. During his time in Florida, John served on the Board of the Florida Electric Cooperative Association and as a Board of Director for Seminole Electric Cooperative, a generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale power supply for over one million Floridians.

John served as the Director of Utilities for the City of Manassas, VA, overseeing the City’s delivery of water, wastewater, electric and telecommunication services. He began his career designing transmission and distribution infrastructure at Bristol Tennessee Electric System.

John presently serves on the Board of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), an educational non-profit dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios for the benefit of the utility, its customers and the public good. He has proudly served the utility industry on various committees throughout his career, which include working to support the efforts of NRECA and the American Public Power Association.

John holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Tennessee. He is a licensed Professional Engineer.

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Friday - Christoph Weber

Cristoph Weber 3Professor Christoph Weber has been the chair for Management Sciences and Energy Economics at the University of Duisburg-Essen since October 2004. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Stuttgart and obtained a PhD in Economics in 1999 from the University Hohenheim.

His main research interests are in energy risk management, energy market regulation and application of operations research methods to energy issues. He has published on a broad variety of energy topics in national and international journals. He is furthermore advising network operators, electricity companies, regulators and governments on current energy issues.

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Panel 1 – The Benefits and Costs of Pushing Renewables

Moderator: Varun Rai, no presentation
1. Ines Azevedo, view presentation 
2. Lincoln Davies, view presentation
3. Gautam Gowrisankaran, view presentation
4. Felix Mormann, presentation not currently available
5. Elizabeth Wilson, view presentation 

Panel 2 – Integrating Distributed Energy Resources

Moderator: Ross Baldick, view presentation  
1. Chad Blevins, view presentation 
2. Ashley Brown, view presentation 
3. Daniel Kirschen, view presentation
4. James Tong, view presentation 
5. Daniel Violette, view presentation 

Panel 3 – EPA Rules and Electric Supply/Reliability

Moderator: Melinda Taylor, no presentation
1.James Bushnell, view presentation 
2. Colin Meehan
, view presentation
3. Barry Smitherman, view presentation 

4. Brian Tulloh, view presentation 
5. Michael Wara, view presentation 

Panel 4 – Building a Market in Mexico

Moderator: Erika Benson, no presentation

1. Francisco Acuna, presentation not currently available
2. Esaul Ramirez, view presentation 
3. Efrain Villanueva, view presentation
4. Benigno Villarreal, view presentation

Conference Organizers

Sponsorship and Meeting Coordinators

Ross Baldick
Cockrell School of Engineering

Varun Rai
Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs & Cockrell School of Engineering

David Spence
Red McCombs School of Business

Melinda Taylor
UT School of Law
512- 232-3641

Michael Webber
Webber Energy Group & Cockrell School of Engineering

Hotel and Logistics

Jessica Miller
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business

Mauricio Pajon
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business


Hotels With a Room Block Available

AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center
1900 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705
Phone: (512) 404-1900
Cut off March 23, 2015

 Hotels Without a Room Block Available

DoubletreeDoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotels
303 West 15th Street, Austin, TX 78701-1692
Phone: (512) 478-7000


 mansion at judges hillHotel Ella
1900 Rio Grande Street, Austin, TX 78705
Phone: (512) 495-1800

Four Seasons Hotel
98 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 478-4500



Hilton Austin
500 East 4th Street, Austin, Texas 78701
Website: Click here
Phone: (512) 482-8000 

Hyatt Regency Austin
208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704
Phone: (512) 477-1234

Omni Hotel Austin
700 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 476-3700


The Stephen F. Austin Inter-continental Hotel
701 Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 457-8800


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Engineering Logo 

Energy Institute logo

New McCombs Logo

UT Law Logo 


The 2015 Austin Electricity Conference will explore the idea of states and nations as electricity policy innovators at the intersection of electricity markets and the environment, with an eye toward extracting the lessons (both positive and negative) from the myriad approaches to managing the electricity industry across the United States and the world. There is a tremendous amount of electricity policy innovation and differentiation in the world right now, particularly over the question of how to manage the transition to a cleaner energy mix. We can contrast the relatively aggressive, clean energy policy-driven approaches taken by California’s AB 32 and Germany Energiewende to the relatively laissez-faire, competitive markets approach taken by Texas. Those approaches, in turn, can be distinguished from the approach taken in the southeastern United States, where traditional regulated monopolies continue to dominate the market. The impending opening of the Mexican electricity sector offers its own set of challenges and issues ripe for examination and consideration. We hope to stimulate a lively debate over the merits of these different visions of the electricity future, one that (as always) takes advantage of the variety of disciplines and perspectives represented by our invited experts.