City Council considers upping renewable power goals at Austin Energy


Highlights

Increasing use of renewable energy at city-owned utility to 65% is expected to raise rates by 11 percent.

Study group to consider the impact of upping renewable energy sources to 75%, 80% or 100% of utility’s power.

Though a working group had already recommended upping the city’s goal of renewable energy production, the Austin City Council on Thursday voted to push the goal further in adopting a generation plan for Austin Energy.

The plan, which had been recommended by several city commissions, increased the city’s renewable energy goal from 55 percent to 65 percent of the power generated by 2027. That 65 percent figure will remain in place, but the council directed Austin Energy to see if 75 percent renewable energy or even 80 percent would be doable by 2027.

In amendments to the plan, the council also directed the utility to study the feasibility of going to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. The council approved the plan 10-1, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair voting against.

The city now taps renewable sources for 37 percent of its power, according to Austin Energy, and the utility projects that pushing renewable sources up to 65 percent will raise customers’ rates by 11 percent.

Mayor Steve Adler, who said the city is recognized internationally as a leader in using carbon-free energy, said persistent advocates have continued to push the city and its leaders to go further than nearly all other large cities in the world when it comes to limiting the use of fossil fuels. More than 200 people spoke at a public hearing last week in favor of the city going full carbon-free by 2030. Many returned on Thursday in green shirts with signs.

“How we  address climate change in this city is something I am incredibly proud of,” Adler said. “There is nobody else doing this at the municipal level like this city is.”

The plan could be seen as a compromise between the working group that wrote it and the activists that had pushed for it to go further. While the activists raised the goals, they aren’t ironclad targets, and the utility is only directed to study how realistic it is to reach those goals.

Troxclair said she was against the plan is because it will cause Austin Energy’s rates to climb. She noted that earlier in the day the council had voted to study affordability in Austin and then voted on a policy goal that would likely increase electric bills.

“Forcing the market before these goals are affordable or attainable puts the ratepayers in a difficult position,” Troxclair said.



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