Solar Austin Tour: Texas Electric Grid Control Center

Electric Reliability Council of Texas ERCOTHave you ever wondered how it is that there’s always (or just about always) electricity available when you flip a switch?  It’s not magic, it’s thanks to the work done by the people at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

ERCOT staff will provide us with an overview of current trends and conditions for grid operations and markets including renewable energy resources. Their senior analyst specializing in market design for distributed generation will also be on-hand to cover topics of interest that could be relevant to distributed energy services like commercial and residential solar.

WHEN: Friday, October 14, 2016, ERCOT tour 2-4 p.m., Texas Beer Company after 4 p.m.
WHERE: 800 Airport Rd, Taylor, TX 76574


Parking is limited at the ERCOT control center, so please carpool if you can.  Carpools will leave at 1:00 p.m. from both locations.
NORTH LOCATION: Walmart (12900 N Interstate Hwy 35, Austin, TX 78753)
CENTRAL LOCATION: Home Depot (1200 Barbara Jordan Blvd #100, Austin, TX 78723)

Post Tour Visit to the Texas Beer Company
After the tour, we invite you to join us for a drink at the Texas Beer Company in Taylor.  We’ll start by stopping by the warehouse brewery (which will be completed next year) to check out their solar array.  Then we’ll head to the brewpub for a cold drink.  This start-up brewary and taproom is owned and operated by Austin natives who love solar, so it’s a great place to finish our afternoon in Taylor.
WAREHOUSE BREWERY: 1331 W 2nd, Taylor, TX 76574
BREWPUB: 201 North Main St, Taylor, TX 76574

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers – representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. As the independent system operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines and 550 generating units. ERCOT also performs financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers retail switching for 7 million premises in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature. ERCOT’s members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities (transmission and distribution providers,) and municipal-owned electric utilities.

TREIA GridNEXT Conference

Our Partners at the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association (TREIA) are hosting their annual conference in Georgetown this year. We’re really excited about the GridNEXT theme and would love to see you there.

gridnext-so-eb-fbcover-763x315Register now, as today is the last day to get early bird rates!

Why Attend:

GridNEXT is a two-day conference, focused on the new business models, technologies and grid modernization initiatives needed to grow the renewable energy industry in Texas and across the U.S.

  • LEARN about the latest trends impacting the Grid of the Future
  • CONNECT with players in the Grid Modernization Industry
  • FOSTER the furthering of Renewable Energy Integration

Who Should Attend:

  • Technology Providers
  • Utilities
  • Energy Consumers/Prosumers
  • Developers/Integrators
  • Solution Providers (Regulators, Legislatures, Consultants, Academic Leaders


  • Early Bird Discount expires on September 7th
  • Supporting Organization Discount Code 10% off: GRID16

Conference Highlights:

  • Pre-Conference Workshops
  • Networking Breaks-Morning & Afternoon
  • Networking Reception
  • Keynote Speaker: Brad Jones, President & CEO, NYISO, Formerly, Senior VP & COO, ERCOT
  • Opening Session Speaker: Bill Magness, President & CEO, ERCOT
  • GLEAMM Showcase Reception

July Happy Hour: Perspectives on Utilities – Where Does Solar Fit In?

As solar, storage, demand response, and energy efficiency continue their ascent, new utility business models are emerging that align utilities’ financial incentives with increasing DERs. What are they? How do they work? And which models are most likely to win out?

This month, we will hear from Mark Kapner and Doug Lewin for two perspectives on utility business models and how they interact with emerging issues around solar and clean energy.

 Tuesday, July 26, 2016
5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St

This Month’s Speakers:

Mark KapnerMark Kapner, PE, Partner, MV Green Power LLC, is also the Engineering Manager of Frontier Associates in Austin, Texas. He is a nationally-recognized authority in helping electric utilities expand their use of wind, solar and bio-energy and has spoken at dozens of national and international renewable energy conferences.

As Senior Strategy Engineer at Austin Energy (AE) from 1999-2011, Mark developed AE’s GreenChoice Program, the nation’s leading renewable energy marketing program. He also was instrumental in launching Plug-In Partners, the AE-led campaign that persuaded the automobile industry to build plug-in hybrid vehicles. Mark originated the dual storage media system for integrating off-peak wind energy and solar thermal energy to produce utility-scale dispatchable power. He has over 30 years of experience in energy technology, environmental engineering and renewable energy policy.

Prior to joining Austin Enegy, Mark launched TerraSolar USA, a solar photovoltaic company based in New Jersey, and served as a Research and Development Manager for the New York Power Authority. He has a BS in Engineering Science from the State University of NY at Stony Brook and a Masters in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Doug LewinDoug Lewin, VP, Regulatory Affairs of Market Devleopment, leads CLEAResult’s policy efforts. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with offices in more than 70 cities in the U.S. and Canada, CLEAResult designs, markets, and implements energy efficiency programs for utilities and businesses.

Prior to joining CLEAResult, Lewin was the founding Executive Director of the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER).SPEER was recognized by the US Department of Energy as the regional energy efficiency organization (REEO) for Texas and Oklahoma, working with a network of REEOs throughout the US to advance energy efficiency. Under his leadership from 2011-16, SPEER grew from a start-up organization to a multi-million dollar organization with over 50 members.

Lewin also worked at the Texas Legislature for five years, primarily on clean energy issues for three different elected officials in the House and Senate. Lewin earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin.


Bonus networking opportunity at this happy hour:

We are pleased to offer a new way to make your networking more effective at this happy hour: the wanah app. Download ahead of time, and write down one thing you want, and one thing you have to offer here.
At the event, you’ll both find and help others easily with this app.


June Happy Hour: Solar in Texas, The Emperor Has No Clothes

Texas has the most solar energy potential of any state in the U.S., but has been slow to adopt solar technology.  Now that’s changing and all kinds of entities – wholesale electric providers, retail electric providers, businesses and individuals – are looking to solar as an affordable, reliable source of energy.Maura Yates will speak about the values of solar in Texas, in particular within the deregulated power market. As solar is entering the mainstream, the mechanisms and strategies of making the values of solar accessible are sophisticated and validated. Join us for a forward discussion.

When: Tuesday, June 28, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto


 Maura YatesMaura Yates is the Vice President of Sustainable Solutions for MP2 Energy where she is responsible for solar retail and generation solutions. Prior to joining MP2 Energy 2 ½ years ago, Ms. Yates oversaw government affairs for the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions for SunEdison and developing DG and utility-scale solar solutions for Arizona Public Service. Maura also spent time with Robert Kennedy’s environmental organization, Riverkeeper, prior to joining Standard Renewable Energy, a DG and energy efficiency provider previously based out of Houston during the mid-to-late 2000s. She was named one of the ‘Top 50 Smart Grid Pioneers of 2015’ by SmartGrid Today magazine.
We hope you will join us for an engaging conversation!

Austin Energy Community Solar Survey

Later this year, Austin Energy will begin offering its customers an opportunity to sign up to receive solar energy generated at community solar installations located at the Kingsbery Substation in East Austin, and, in the future, from other solar installations located throughout Austin.  Community solar will allow customers who rent or whose homes cannot be fitted with their own solar panels to be able to purchase local solar energy.

Austin Energy is currently considering several options for how to allow residential customers to enroll in its community solar program, including:

  • a capacity-based subscription with an upfront fee and monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates investment would pay back in 13 years, with $90/month in savings for 12 more years);
  • a capacity-based subscription with a monthly fee and monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates the average customer would save $6/month);
  • a fixed community solar fee that would replace the power supply adjustment (PSA) fee (this would initially be more expensive, but could be cheaper in later years);
  • a community solar fee that would be added to the PSA (similar to GreenChoice, where customers forever pay more);
  • a customer ownership model, where customers would buy a number of panels upfront and receive monthly production credits (Austin Energy estimates investment would pay back in 15 years, with $90/month in savings for 10 more years); and
  • a low-income community solar offering subsidized through customer charges.

We encourage you to take Austin Energy’s survey, which the utility will use to help determine the most appropriate model to ensure the success of the community solar program.

Please note that you may have to enable pop-ups and if you see a note that asks for a Login ID and Password, just ignore that and click “Begin Survey.”

The survey will close on June 1st, so don’t wait!

May Happy Hour: Screening of “Catching the Sun”

We’re shaking things up a bit!  Instead of a speaker, our May happy hour will be a screening of “Catching the Sun,” an exciting film the hopes and challenges of solar energy.  It’s about job creation, bringing people affordable energy, political battles, and helping the fight against climate change.

An unemployed American worker, a Tea Party activist, and a Chinese solar entrepreneur race to lead the clean energy future. But who wins and who loses the battle for power in the 21st century?

Through the stories of workers and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and China, Catching the Sun captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. Over the course of a solar jobs training program, Catching the Sun follows the hope and heartbreak of unemployed American workers seeking jobs in the solar industry.  With countries like China investing in innovative technologies and capitalizing on this trillion-dollar opportunity, Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. Their successes and failures speak to one of the biggest questions of our time: will the U.S. actually be able to build a clean energy economy?

When: Tuesday, May 24, 5:30 – 8:00 pm (film starts at 6:15)

Where: Scholz Garten (1607 San Jacinto St)

Tickets: $10 ($5 students) – Buy Here

April Happy Hour: Living Building Challenge

Plan to be inspired by the solar opportunity within the Living Building Challenge™.  LBC is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. It calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. The certification process under the Challenge requires that projects meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.  We will hear the living proof story of the building of the Bullitt Center, a local, place-based community transformation in Seattle.
Around the world, passionate individuals are advocating for restorative building practices. They’re spreading the word and removing barriers to change.  It begins by sharing resources and collaborating locally to pursue Living Building Challenge certification.Join us to hear from Karen Knight about the Living Building Challenge!
 Tuesday, April 26, 2016
5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St

Karen KnightKaren Knight’s enduring passion for energy policy, civic ecology, and high-performance architecture has made her an innovator and role model in Austin. Putting her money where her mouth is, she renovated her own home to receive the Austin Energy Green Building program’s 5-star rating, demonstrating clearly that it is possible to integrate modern architecture in an energy-positive environment. An Ambassador for the Living Building Challenge in Austin, she also supports the healthy engagement of kids with nature through the Shoal Creek Conservancy, Austin Families in Nature, and the Dell Children’s Medical Center Trust.  Along with her partner, Graham Pierce, she is currently stewarding 67 acres at Ardor Wood Farm in Red Rock, TX to be shared as a holistic, regenerative wildlife & human retreat experience.  Her urban development initiatives for an Ardor project in central downtown Austin continue to move forward to bring together internationally recognized innovators in sustainability, energy, and design to fulfill the vision of a collaborative space fusing hospitality with exquisite, living architecture along the greenbelt trails of Shoal Creek.

March Happy Hour: Austin Energy SHINES – Distributed Solar and Storage

Solar is booming, but the share of electricity coming from solar is still very small.  As that changes, it will be important to find ways to integrate larger amounts of solar energy in ways that keep the grid stable.  As has already been demonstrated in Hawaii, it’s important to take these steps early to avoid having solar production curtailed from homes and businesses.  To that end, Austin Energy has been awarded $4.3 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

The grant will fund the Austin Energy SHINES (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV) Project, which will pilot and research solar, battery storage, and smart inverter technologies. Included in this project is the much anticipated community solar installation, battery storage to be co-located with the community solar and battery storage at the Mueller development.

Karl PophamKarl Popham, Austin Energy’s Manager of Electric Vehicles & Emerging Technologies, will join us this month to talk about the Austin Energy SHINES Program.  Karl has 23+ years experience in emerging technologies, leadership, and consulting. He currently leads Austin Energy’s Emerging Technologies and Electric Vehicle teams to include the award winning Plug-In EVerywhere™ program. Additionally, he is a Department of Energy Principal Investigator on 3 separate initiatives that involve renewables, energy storage, and mobility. He also serves on several research and policy boards relating to energy and innovation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
5:30 – 8:00 pm
Scholz Garten
1607 San Jacinto St
Please RSVP.

February Happy Hour: Solar On-Bill Financing at Pedernales Electric Co-op

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative is taking steps to encourage more of its customers to go solar – including the recent kick off on an on-bill financing program for customer-owned solar installations and battery storage.  This is exciting news, both because it the co-op serves many Austin-area residents, and because, as the largest co-op in the country, PEC can set a good example for other co-ops.

Join us for happy hour with Blake Beavers, Renewable & Distributed Energy Manager, and Peter Muhoro, Director of Energy Research and Strategy, of PEC.

WHEN: Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 5:30-8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701

January Happy Hour: 100% Renewable Energy for Georgetown

Our first happy hour of the year is going to be one you won’t want to miss. Georgetown will soon be powered by 100% renewable energy. How is it achieving this goal so much more rapidly than Austin and most other cities? What factors were considered in the decision and what were the reasons for choosing renewable energy?

Join us to hear from Mayor Dale Ross, General Manager of Georgetown Utility Systems Jim Briggs and Manager of Resource Planning and Integration Chris Foster.

When: 5:30 – 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Where: Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin
Get your ticket!

Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross

Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross

Mayor Dale Ross:

Dale Ross has lived in the Old Town section of Georgetown for over ten years with his wife, Mickie, and their cat Lillie. He has a wide range of experience in the private sector as business owner, public servant and philanthropist. He is a Certified Public Accountant and President and Founder of L. Dale Ross, CPA, P.C. located in Georgetown. In addition to running a successful business, he has provided his professional advice and services with respect to formulating policy and being a steward of the taxpayers’ money in fulfilling his fiduciary responsibilities during his tenure on the Georgetown City Council.

He is a member of several state and national professional organizations, as well as local non-profits like the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Georgetown Association, Georgetown Heritage Society and the Sun City Kiwanis. He is the president of the Village Lake Office Business Owners’ Association, and is the treasurer of the Georgetown Symphony Society. He is also a past president and treasurer of the Williamson Museum on the Georgetown Square.

In addition to being Mayor, Ross’ service to the City includes a term as District 6 City Council Member, Mayor Pro-Tem, and he was an officer or board member for five other City of Georgetown boards.

Jim Briggs, General Manager of Georgetown Utility Systems

Jim Briggs, General Manager of Georgetown Utility Systems

Jim Briggs:

Jim has served as the City’s Director of Community Owned Utilities and as Assistant City Manager over 26 years. In 2012 when he was promoted to the position of General Manager of Georgetown Utility Systems. As General Manager Jim is responsible for the strategic planning for the utility along with daily operations. Jim has guided the utility through years of high growth as well as times of economic recession; each economic period with its own complexities and challenges.

Jim is a graduate of Texas A&M University, with a Bachelor’s Degree from the College of Agricultural Engineering in Mechanized Systems. Jim has earned his certification as a Certified Water Operator and as a Public Power Executive from the American Public Power Association. Jim serves currently as a board member and past President of the Texas Public Power Association. Jim is also currently serving on the Brazos River Authority Region “G” Water Planning Board. He also serves as Treasurer to Public Power Incorporated, a for-profit affiliate of The American Public Power Association.

In his free time, Jim golf’s when he is not farming or operating the family ranching business.

Chris Foster,  Manager of Resource Planning and Integration

Chris Foster, Manager of Resource Planning and Integration

Chris Foster:

Chris is currently the Manager of Resource Planning and Integration for the City of Georgetown, and has served in the capacity since 2008. His primary role is managing the City’s Municipally Owned Utility power supply.

Previous work includes managing payroll for the Health and human Services Commission, fixing computer equipment for CVS and Walgreens, and running his own tech repair company. Chris is a graduate of Georgetown High School, holding a bachelor’s in Economics/Finance from the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, and a Master’s in Public Administration from Texas State. Chris is also a Certified Government Finance Officer through the Government Finance Officers Association.

Chris is best known for orchestrating the successful transition of Georgetown’s power supply from a single provider that was over 90% fossil fuel based, to being 100% wind and solar powered by 2017. Outside of energy, Chris acts as the City’s economist and lead contract negotiator including water rights, garbage contracts, technological systems, development agreements, etc.

Chris is married with three kids. His dissertation titled “Does Proximity Matter? Measuring the effect green space has on residential water consumption”, and can be found in the Texas State MPA ARP archives.