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Using The Texas Interactive Power Simulator For Direct Instruction

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

The Role of Engineering in Public Policy

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1335.1 - 14.1335.12



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Paper Authors


Melissa Lott University of Texas, Austin

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Melissa Lott is a graduate student in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work includes a unique pairing of mechanical engineering and public policy in the field of energy systems research. She is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, receiving a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biological Systems Engineering. Melissa is currently working as a member of the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a 2008 recipient of the Rylander Excellence in Teaching Endowment for her achievements in the classroom at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Carey King University of Texas, Austin

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Carey King is a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austis Center for
International Energy and Environmental Policy and the Bureau of Economic Geology. Carey
works on understanding the environmental and economic tradeoffs among the various energy
systems and infrastructure choices as well as presenting these tradeoffs through outreach and
educational efforts. One of his particular interests lies in understanding the effects of time scales within the context of energy infrastructure, political decision-making, and consumer choices.

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Michael Webber University of Texas, Austin

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using the Texas Interactive Power Simulator for Direct Instruction


Establishing a reliable and sustainable electricity supply is a difficult challenge. Unfortunately, discussions on this topic include wide varieties of misinformation, subjective analysis, and biased resources. The Texas Interactive Power Simulator (TIPS) provides an educational tool for direct instruction and informing public policy decisions by providing an interactive teaching and learning environment with objective instruction about the tradeoffs of electricity generation choices in Texas. The simulator is presented in a web-based, interactive format to provide easy access for the target user groups. Target groups include policy decision makers, government employees, educators, students, and the general public.

The Texas Interactive Power Simulator gives educators the ability to quantitatively compare the economic costs and environmental impacts of electricity production methods according to fuel source (i.e. coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, sun, water). Each electricity production method is evaluated in terms of its direct cost and indirect impacts. Direct costs include the costs of new capacity, fuel, facility operation, and facility maintenance. Indirect impacts include air emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. Also included are water consumption rates and land requirements for new facilities. The analytical framework and source data provide quantitative measures by which each generation type is compared. Data are collected from government reports and peer reviewed technical literature and are updated frequently as costs change frequently.

The simulator’s interactive interface allows the user to set a desired mix of fuels according to the percentage breakdown of electricity production. Based on these inputs, TIPS determines the overall direct costs and indirect impacts of a unit of electricity according to the costs associated with each fuel type. These measures provide students, policy makers, and other users with transparent and unbiased methods for understanding basic tradeoffs that emerge from different fuel mixes.

TIPS also provides a level of basic education on electricity generation. Beyond cost and environmental impact information, the Texas Interactive Power Simulator generates graphs, charts, and pictograms to effectively communicate the differences between electricity production methods via the unique characteristics of each. These educational lessons can apply to many electricity markets and provide an introduction for those who wish to become proficient in the field. Portions of the TIPS website are specifically designed for classroom use regarding the topic of electricity production in Texas. However, the simulator’s flexible framework lends itself to easy expansion to cover the fuel mix for other regions, including the entire US and world markets.


The Texas Interactive Power Simulator was designed at the University of Texas at Austin to communicate key lessons concerning the tradeoffs of electricity generation methods in Texas

Lott, M., & King, C., & Webber, M. (2009, June), Using The Texas Interactive Power Simulator For Direct Instruction Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4816

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015