The Webber Energy Group is a subgroup within the engineering department of University of Texas Austin that specializes in issues concerning energy and water efficiency. The group is led by Michael Webber, UT Austin’s Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources. Dr. Webber has a strong commitment to public outreach and hosts an open online course on “Energy and Society” that calls for an interdisciplinary approach to the world’s energy problems. The Webber Group also hosts a community outreach event—Clean Energy Beers—every month at a local brewery.
UT Austin’s engineering department, Dr. Webber included, has a strong national presence in energy science. UT has the Energy Institute, of which Webber is the former Deputy Director, whose Energy Symposium hosts a 15 week-long, public weekly seminar with talks from energy experts from around the country. However, this institution has deep historical ties to Texas’ oil and gas industry. See the following quote from their website “The University of Texas at Austin has long been renowned for research related to the state’s iconic oil and gas industry. Today, university researchers are pioneering innovative ways to produce energy from these traditional sources in an environmentally responsible manner, while also leading groundbreaking research into new technologies that cover the entire spectrum of energy.”
Dr. Webber is also on the Board of Directors at Pecan Street Inc., a 501(c)(3) that specializes in producing, analyzing, and sharing data on energy and water consumption practices, verifying new “smart home” technologies, electricity pricing, electric vehicle infrastructure, solar energy tech, and solar storage tech. Their data source is a group of over 1000 volunteers that live in the Mueller community, a microgrid with the highest density of solar panels-plus-electric vehicles in the state of Texas. The Mueller Community was also chosen as one of the Austin locations for the SunShot Initiative. The project, named Austin SHINES, was co-funded by the DOE’s SunShot Initiative (during Obama’s administration) and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality to test the efficiency of solar-plus-storage systems at different scales (household, residential/commercial, and utility scales). These grants were also matched by Austin Energy, the city’s publicly owned utility. Both the Mueller community and another new solar community array in East Austin will serve as Austin SHINES test sites.