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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

In the Loop

New energy

UTSA has taken two giant leaps toward becoming a national leader in green technology research. In November, officials announced the hiring of Les Shephard, an internationally renowned expert on energy policy who joined UTSA after a long career at Sandia National Laboratories. And in June, UTSA, the City of San Antonio and CPS Energy’s Board of Trustees announced a 10-year, $50-million investment in the university to research and develop renewable energy.

Les Shephard

Les Shephard holds the USAA Robert F. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering and is the director of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute.

The effort will come under the auspices of the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA, formerly known as the Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy. Shephard will lead the institute.

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro called the agreement a “game-changing partnership” between a university and a city-owned utility that is unlike any other in the country.

“This is a bold step,” said Castro. “Ratepayers will get a more efficient utility, the city will get the economic development value of robust research and development in San Antonio, and the university will spiral ever more quickly to Tier One status.”

CPS Energy officials hailed the agreement as a strategic move that will help the utility invest ratepayer money wisely at a time when utilities across the country are working to implement sustainable technologies.

“We welcome this partnership with CPS Energy as it will not only make San Antonio one of the nation’s leaders in sustainable energy innovation, but also provide a significant boost to UTSA in its steady growth toward a research intensive university of Tier One status,” said UTSA President Ricardo Romo.

Shephard said all the pieces are in place for a nationally recognized institute in San Antonio. The city has two utilities—the San Antonio Water System, which has a long track record in the area of conservation, and CPS Energy, whose energy-efficiency efforts are newer—as well as an active military with specific energy needs.

Also, the area has a strong foundation of academic and research entities with robust green programs including Southwest Research Institute as well as the Mission Verde Center, a city partnership that includes the Alamo Colleges and Texas A&M University’s Texas Engineering Experiment Station.

“In the last two years UTSA has been aggressively hiring experts in the area of green energy research and this new agreement will accelerate the acquisition of top quality talent to San Antonio,” said Mauli Agrawal, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, who was instrumental in persuading Shephard to join UTSA.

Shephard added that the wealth of energy resources present in Texas makes San Antonio an ideal place for energy-related research and development and attractive to experts from around the nation.

The agreement calls for CPS Energy to invest up to $50 million over 10 years in the institute. The first two years’ investment will be $3.5 million from funds currently allocated to research and development. Future funding will be developed by the scope of the projects defined by the partnership and subject to annual approval by the CPS Energy Board of Trustees.

—Christi Fish

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