AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin College of Engineering and the Center for Lifelong Engineering Education (CLEE) will present a seminar on "The New Texas Electric Market and How it Compares to the California Market" on Wednesday (May 2) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Thompson Conference Center.
"We are offering this class in the context of California’s woes," said Dr. Ross Baldick, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. Baldick, an expert on electric power systems, said California’s problems have included rolling blackouts, price spikes and utility company bankruptcies. Because deregulation begins this summer in Texas, residents here need to consider whether California’s problems could happen here, he said.
Deregulation for a small number of consumers begins in June of this year under legislation approved in 1999. By next January, Texas consumers will have the option to choose their electric power provider. Panelists and topics at the seminar include:
- Jim Bushnell, University of California Energy Institute, on "California Restructuring and California’s Continuing Crisis."
- Sam Jones, vice president and chief operating officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Jess Totten, director of the Electric Division of the Texas Public Utility Commission, on "Texas’ Restructuring" and "What’s Ahead for Texas."
- Bill Hogan, professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, who has played a key role in the successful restructuring of markets in the eastern United States and internationally, providing the East Coast perspective.
Baldick, who will be the moderator, said the seminar should be especially useful to corporate and governmental electricity purchasers, who are often non-technical people making technology-based decisions.
"Say I’m a purchasing officer for a school district running up six-figure monthly electricity bills. Do I continue buying from the same old utility I’ve been buying from forever, or do I go to a new provider whose price is better now? And what are the guarantees that the price will stay good?" he said.
Baldick explained that the California experience is not the only paradigm for deregulation in the United States. Markets in the Eastern United States were restructured in recent years with fewer problems.
"There, sufficient power supply compels authentic competition," Baldick said. "Will we follow the experiences from the East Coast? Or will we be more like California? I expect the seminar to generate a lot of interesting discussion."
Baldick said he believes that Texas has advantages over California, and that this state has ample supply to meet both present and anticipated future demand. On the other hand, Baldick cautions that there are other aspects of the Texas market design — such as transmission capacity and congestion management — that may need a second look.