Evaluating the Business Case for Smart Grid Investments: Nov. 8-9 Texas A&M Conference Eyes Smart Grid Issues Critical to Electric Cooperatives, Municipal Utilities

PR Newswire — September 7, 2010

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Sept. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Critical smart grid technology issues confronting electric coops and municipal utilities will be addressed at the Texas A&M University Smart Grid Conference, “Evaluating the Business Case for Smart Grid Investments,” Nov. 8-9 in Austin, Texas.

The conference, open to all interested parties, is especially tailored for utilities, government agencies, regulators, equipment manufacturers, software developers, vendors, consulting firms and related energy industry concerns.

Electric smart grid technology provides integrated communication, automation and control of entire electric systems, from generating plants to the operation of electric equipment inside homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants.

“Though smart grid investments by electric coops and public utilities are an essential part of the country’s energy infrastructure, they have received far less attention and support in addressing smart grid investments compared to large investor-owned utilities (IOUs),” said conference organizer Jerry Jackson, an energy economist, associate professor of construction science at Texas A&M and leader of the Texas A&M Smart Grid Research Consortium.

Though the average coop/public utility serves approximately 13,500 customers, compared to the IOU’s average customer count of almost 500,000, there are nearly 3,000 coops and public utilities providing electricity to more than a quarter of all U.S. electric customers, said Jackson. They also maintain electric distribution systems covering many times the geographic areas served by IOUs.

“Coops and public utilities are at a disadvantage in addressing smart grid investments,” Jackson said, “because they have fewer resources to conduct their own analysis, they do not have the market power of the larger IOUs, nor do they receive the same level of attention from vendors.”

Last May, the Texas A&M College of Architecture formed a research consortium, led by Jackson, to help 12 participating electric cooperatives and municipal utilities evaluate the business case for smart grid investments.

The Nov. 8-9 conference, to be held at the Omni Southpark Hotel in Austin, Jackson said, will examine the costs and benefits of smart grid investments, address many of the issues encountered by consortium members, and use their experiences to illustrate the kinds of business analyses afforded by a customized, yet basic financial investment model.

Conference topics include:

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