Electricity and Power

March 2015

The Transforming UT Electricity Committee was asked to investigate the ability and potential value of selling excess power generated by the Carl J. Eckhardt Jr. Heating and Power Complex. The ability, value, and potential revenue was evaluated with consideration for risks to the plant Title V permit, Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) regulations, the existing agreement with Austin Energy for standby power, and the General Land Office (GLO) natural gas purchase agreement. 

Chaired by Juan Ontiveros, Executive Director of Utilities and Energy Management, the Electricity Committee (full committee membership to the right) met several times as a committee to discuss the potential opportunity of selling excess energy to the market. After a detailed study, the Committee found that at this time the campus energy system is not equipped to sell excess energy, nor is the regulatory environment favorable for such expansion of services. A complete examination of the Austin energy ecosystem is included in the Transforming UT Electricity Committee Report

The UT Austin power plant is a combined heating and power (CHP) system, which produces both electricity and useable heat. The University's power system has been recognized as one of the best campus energy systems in the United States and runs on the same amount of natural gas as it did nearly 40 years ago because of an innovative energy management program and aggressive conservation efforts. This means that in terms of emissions, all campus growth in recent years has been carbon neutral.

Although it is considered a world-class system among its peers and more than meets the needs for the University, the power plant is not competitive with the equipment deployed by commercial utilities, nor is the system equipped to comply with commercial production regulations. 

The Electricity Committee recommends that the University establish a long-term plan to develop the power plant for the future. Although the top priority would be to serve faculty, staff, and students, a long-term plan would provide an opportunity to further study the opportunity to offer excess power for sale on the wholesale market in Texas. The plan would also allow the University to budget for equipment upgrades and to launch a dialogue with the state’s regulatory agencies, while also factoring in associated regulatory costs.