UH teams up with energy companies for real-world electricity research

The University of Houston is teaming up with two Houston-based energy companies to create a special think tank focused on the needs of electricity companies.

CenterPoint Energy and Direct Energy are working with the University of Houston to create the Electric Power Analytics Consortium, a research unit that will delve into retail electricity issues, including providing reliable electricity and encouraging energy efficiency.

“This is the first of several partnerships we hope to do with universities across the country, to build relationships with academia and tap into some of these brilliant minds,” said Micah Hirschfield, a spokesman for Direct Energy. “But the consortium is also about having someone look at the research and the data and bring that research to light to bring innovative products to the market, so that our customers can better control their energy use.”

The new research group is part of a push by University of Houston to apply energy academic research to real-world issues.

“In this case, we will be helping energy companies ensure that they are responding as quickly as possible to their customers and consumer demand,” said Ramanan Krishnamoorti, the University of Houston chief energy officer in a written statement.

For example, the research team will use smart meter data from CenterPoint Energy to develop models on electric use that can help Direct Energy provide retail electricity products to customers buy and use power more efficiently.

It will also work on modelling the effects of hurricanes or other major storms on providing electricity.

“We understand that everyone wants power back on quickly following a natural disaster,” said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of CenterPoint Energy’s electric business, in a written statement. “But the reality is there will be outages. We believe the investments we’ve made in intelligent grid and analytics technologies will improve how we identify where service problems are and how quickly we restore power after a major event.”