UTSA to receive $50 million from CPS Energy to support energy research

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(June 4, 2010)--UTSA officials will join Mayor Julian Castro and leaders of CPS Energy on Tuesday, June 8 to announce a 10-year, $50 million agreement to position San Antonio as a national leader in green technology research.

The agreement will establish the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute at UTSA, which Castro has called "a game-changing partnership" between a university and a city-owned utility that is unlike any other in the country.

CPS Energy leaders hail the agreement as a strategic move that will help the utility spend ratepayer money wisely at a time when utilities across the country are making large investments in sustainable technologies. Last year, for example, the utility committed to spend $165 million to weatherize 45,000 homes by 2020.

"We welcome the opportunity to partner with CPS Energy in energy, one of our university's five strategic areas of research excellence," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo. "Not only will this agreement make San Antonio one of the nation's leaders in sustainable energy innovation, but it provides a significant boost to UTSA in our steady growth toward Tier One research status."

Les Shephard, UTSA's USAA Robert F. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Engineering, will head the institute formerly known as the Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy. Shephard is an internationally renowned expert on energy policy who joined UTSA earlier this year after more than 27 years at Sandia National Laboratories. He often speaks before U.S. Congress on energy and water issues.

"Over the last two years, we have aggressively hired experts in energy research," said Mauli Agrawal, dean of the UTSA College of Engineering, who was instrumental in persuading Shephard to join UTSA. "This agreement will continue to fuel our recruitment efforts so we attract the brightest minds in the world to address sustainable energy challenges."

According to Shephard, all of the pieces are in place for a nationally recognized center in San Antonio. The city has two utilities -- CPS Energy and the San Antonio Water System -- that have strong track records in the areas of conservation. Additionally, San Antonio has a strong foundation of academic and research entities with robust green programs including the Southwest Research Institute as well as the Mission Verde Center, a city partnership that includes the Alamo Colleges and the Texas A&M University Texas Engineering Experiment Station. It also has an active military establishment looking to address specific energy needs.

The agreement, subject to CPS Energy board approval, will call for the utility to invest $50 million over 10 years in the UTSA institute. The first year, CPS Energy expects to invest $1 million followed by $2.5 million the following year. The annual investment is expected to increase thereafter.