This post is written by Dr. Michael Webber, one of ATI’s clean energy directors.
Another weekday night, another clean energy networking event. Austin has a funky, clean, green, zeitgeist centered around the urge to lead the world through its energy transition. And if the CleanTX Forum (run by ATI’s marketing expert Melissa Rabeaux) on Wednesday, August 26, 2009, is any sign, we’re in for a cool ride. More than 200 people showed up at City Hall for a panel on the Pecan Street Project (PSP), the multi-institutional city-wide effort to conceive and implement the utility of the future, grid of the future, and energy system of the future through smart grids, smart meters, smart appliances, and even smarter energy consumers. Some of the anchor institutions include Austin Energy, the City of Austin, the University of Texas, Austin Technology Incubator, Chamber of Commerce, Environmental Defense Fund and a whole slew of corporate partners (including Dell, IBM, Centerpoint, Cisco, and many other excellent companies). It’s another classic case of Austin’s famous public-private partnership in action.
After about 18 months of whiteboard scribbling; conference table gee-whizzing; speakerphone quibbling; 60+ person brainstorming; and team-based editing, PSP has come to fruition as an incorporated not-for-profit. It’s finally here as a real institution, not just an aspiration. It even has a website and a bank account (no money, yet, but some appears to be on the way). After the initial handful of people in early 2008 kicked the whole thing off (Brewster McCracken, Joel Serface, Isaac Barchas, Rachel Proctor May, Roger Duncan, John Baker, Jose Beceiro and Michael Webber), PSP has moved from the ranks of just a good idea to a transformative opportunity for the entire city. Hat tip to Brewster for showing excellent political leadership in getting the whole thing rolling and to Joel and Isaac at the incubator for enabling the process.
PSP’s first official act was to apply for a federal grant to the tune of well over a dozen million dollars to work with the city at the Mueller Redevelopment to include the smartest energy and water technologies possible. And that was the subject of the CleanTX Forum in August. If the proposal is successful, Austin will be able to leverage its investments at Mueller with a useful injection of federal dollars, and the federal government will be able to leverage its investment with local support and a showcase project that they’ll be able to point to for decades. A win-win for everyone. We should know in a few months if the project will be funded. Based on the number of attendees and their engagement during Q&A, it’s clear we’re blessed to live in a community of active citizens who want a long-term, economically robust, sustainable, and clean solution for our energy needs. Way to go Austin!