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A Winning Combination: Championing the Colonias

November 13, 2012 -  Austin, Texas


Policy
The Texas Energy Innovation Challenge: Scoring a Victory for South Texas

Although it’s a widely known that Texas is the nation’s leading power producer, few realize that thousands of Texas residents still lack access to basic services like water and electric power.  Scattered across the Texas/Mexico border are hundreds of unincorporated communities known as colonias where Texans still live without reliable electricity.  The challenge of accessing electric power in the colonias of South Texas—in both regulated and unregulated markets—is primarily one of affordability, although state and county regulations can also complicate the matter. Three teams of graduate student teams are tackling this challenge as part of Power Across Texas’ newest signature initiative—the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge

Each team has been charged with developing real-world energy solutions to bring power to South Texas colonias using near-commercial ready solutions or technology already in operation.  The winning team, which will be announced following oral presentations in February 2013, will receive a $10,000 scholarship with the other two teams earning $7,500 (2nd place) and $5,000 (3rd place) in scholarships. The Board and corporate members of Power Across Texas are proud to help be part of the solution to this lingering challenge in Texas.

People
Every Team is a Winner: Introducing the Players

The three teams of graduate students competing in the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge are in it to win it! Hailing from the state’s flagship universities (Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin) all three teams are interdisciplinary in nature—with students representing the diverse fields of  engineering, public policy/law and business administration. Here’s the lineup:

Texas A&M University
Dr. Robert S. Balog, Assistant Professor, Dept. Electrical and Computer Engineering; Director, Renewable Energy & Advanced Power Electronics Research Laboratory
Bill Cook, College of Engineering
Rachael Dahl, Mosbacher Institute
Lauren Pfeifer, Masters in International Affairs (Finance/Economics)

Texas Tech University
Dr. Richard Gale, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Stephen Bayne, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering as an additional TTU faculty supervisor
Dr. Tim Dallas,  Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. College of Engineering
Dr. Mukaddes Darwish, Associate Professor, Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. College of Engineering
  • JD Foster, Law
  • Teo Hall, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Courtney Pinnell, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • TJ Rosson, Electrical & Computer Engineering
University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Fred Beach, Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy
  • Charles Upshaw, PhD student, Mechanical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering
  • Carlos Olmeda, PhD student, Public Policy, LBJ School of Public Policy
  • Patricia Varraveto, MBA student, Energy Financing, McCombs Business School
Although only one team will be the official winner, every student participating in this unique competition is truly a champion.  Every team will receive a scholarship award and even more importantly will be providing fresh ideas and practical solutions to the long-standing challenge of providing affordable, reliable energy in the colonias of South Texas. Programming A Meeting of the Minds: Student Faculty Teams Tour Colonias Earlier this month, Power Across Texas toured several different colonias in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties with student and faculty team representatives from the three teams competing in the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge.  The purpose of the visit was to provide students and their faculty advisors with a first-hand view of the challenges residents face in the colonias. The three teams, armed with new information and insight, are now working with their faculty advisors on their written and oral presentations.  Students will also have the unique opportunity to participate in a two-hour webex/video seminar on business/financial models that work in energy poverty stricken areas with energy investor, Christine Eibs Singer The winners of the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge, the second student competition spearheaded by Power Across Texas since its founding in 2010, will be announced November 13, 2012.
 
Programming
A Meeting of the Minds: Student Faculty Teams Tour Colonias

Earlier this month, Power Across Texas toured several different colonias in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties with student and faculty team representatives from the three teams competing in the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge.  The purpose of the visit was to provide students and their faculty advisors with a first-hand view of the challenges residents face in the colonias. The three teams, armed with new information and insight, are now working with their faculty advisors on their written and oral presentations.  Students will also have the unique opportunity to participate in a two-hour webex/video seminar on business/financial models that work in energy poverty stricken areas with energy investor, Christine Eibs Singer.

The winners of the Texas Energy Innovation Challenge, the second student competition spearheaded by Power Across Texas since its founding in 2010, will be announced in February following oral team presentations before a panel of expert judges. A special thanks to Senator Eddie Lucio, the Office of the Secretary State, AEP and Magic Valley Electric Cooperative for making this amazing learning experience possible. Click here for photographs and more information about the site visit.

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