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Austin Energy, public utility for one of the U.S.'s most environmentally-minded cities, proposes some headscratchers.

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 755 items added with 372,878 views
  • Jul 12, 2022

Austin Energy is proposing some changes to its rate structure that some groups say are going to disincentivize energy conservation, flying in the face of the utility's emissions and energy efficiency goals. It also looks like it will follow California's lead in blunting the benefit and incentives tied to residential solar. 

The utility's proposed rate changes will increase the base electricity charge by a factor of 1.5, pumping up fixed charges and limiting variable rates. Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen lambasted the utility in a June report, challenging Austin Energy for changes that also appear to increase rates for the lowest energy users and decrease rates for those that use the most energy. Public Citizen also criticized Austin Energy for proposing a California approach to residential solar by decreasing the value of residential solar systems for homeowners. 

These proposals come a half-year after Austin Energy announced that it was unable to reach a deal that would allow them to disinvest from the Fayette Coal Plant, as originally planned to happen in 2022, further hurting the utility's emission and clean energy goals. These hiccups show the challenges facing even public utilities in progressive and environmentally-minded cities in making decisions that are seen as the quickest path to a clean and carbon-free future. 

Do these decisions regarding base rate increases and residential solar incentives signal a larger theme or challenge facing utilities today? The question of firm power continues to be major obstacle in emissions goals but coal seems like the worst option and something relatively easy to move away from, especially in natural gas-friendly Texas. A headscratcher for sure.  Would love to hear some thoughts. 

Nevelyn Black's picture
Nevelyn Black on Jul 12, 2022

Based on trips to SXSW Music and Film Festivals, I would agree that Austin, Texas is a forward-thinking city.   Maybe it’s a case of old habits die hard.  Behind Houston, Austin is a major hub for the oil and gas industry.  Could it just be about the bottom line?  Getting results?

Christopher Neely's picture
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