Environmental groups sign on to Austin Energy rate compromise


Two major environmental advocacy groups signed on to Austin Energy’s $42.5 million overhaul of its rate structure Thursday, after scoring concessions aimed at ensuring the shutdown of part of the coal-fired Fayette power plant.

Under the agreement with the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, Austin Energy will aside $5 million to pay down debt associated with the Fayette Power Project, and it committed to providing a timeline by 2017 for shutting down its share of the facility. The utility had already committed to closing its share of the facility by 2022.

“They’ve already committed to closing (Fayette), but there’s no implementation plan. That’s what this puts us on the path to having,” said Kaiba White, who led the talks for Public Citizen.

The money would come from the utility’s existing reserves and would only be spent if the utility found that paying down the debt was needed to close the facility. The utility co-owns the power plant with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The two environmental advocacy groups are the latest to join onto the compromise between Austin Energy and many of its largest customers, including Samsung Austin Semiconductor and NXP Semiconductors, under which the utility would cut its revenues by $42.5 million annually — using the money to dramatically restructure its rates.

Under the plan, to which the City Council is scheduled to expected to give final passage on Monday, $36.5 million would be dedicated to cutting electric rates for many commercial and industrial users, who have long complained Austin Energy was charging them far too much. Some major customers, such as some large hospitals and data centers, could see their electric rates fall by nearly 24 percent under the deal.

An additional $1 million would go to cutting electric bills for small businesses.

Meanwhile, the utility would use $5 million to overhaul its residential electric rates, a controversial move that raises the base electric rate, while trimming the costs of its more expensive tiers for customers with higher usage. The utility would also combine its summer and regular electric rates into one system to lower bills slightly during the summer, while raising prices during the winter.

The changes, the utility predicts, mean the average Austinite would save about $20 a year, though some could see their bills fall by nearly $60. However, those who manage to stay within the base electric rate could see their bill rise by $6.

Some critics have blasted the changes, saying they punish conservation. The utility says the changes will put it on more solid financial footing by making it less reliant on heat waves — and corresponding spikes in electricity usage — to pay its bills.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall
Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall

The tone of the Transgender Day of Remembrance event held outside Austin City Hall on Monday evening was, as always, a bittersweet mix of hope and sadness as organizers and attendees proclaimed their pride to be transgender and mourned the loss of transgender individuals who were killed this year. For years, Austin has participated in the international...
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say

A fire at a mobile home located in East Austin near U.S. 183 is now under control, Austin fire officials said Monday night.  The structure at the 500 block of Bastrop Highway was heavily involved when the fire was reported about 10 p.m., officials said. The mobile home was abandoned and no one was injured, officials said. 
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls

Several key Central Texas highway projects — including expansions of U.S. 183 in North Austin, U.S. 290 in Southwest Austin and Interstate 35 through the heart of the area — are once again in limbo after Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week staked out firm anti-toll positions. “Right now there’s a billion dollars...
UPDATE: Fire at downtown Hilton hotel now out, fire officials say 
UPDATE: Fire at downtown Hilton hotel now out, fire officials say 

11:30 p.m. update: The Hilton Hotel in downtown Austin was partially evacuated Monday night after a dryer malfunction on the third floor, Austin fire officials said. Firefighters responded around 7:15 p.m., and all guests were allowed back in around 10 p.m. The fire was confined to a laundry room, but the fire is estimated to have caused $200...
Police: Taylor man used Snapchat to try to blackmail girl into sex
Police: Taylor man used Snapchat to try to blackmail girl into sex

A Taylor man accused of demanding sex from a 15-year-old girl on Snapchat faces new charges because he also threatened to post nude pictures of another girl if she did not have sex with him, an affidavit said. Arthuro Medrano, 20 was charged Thursday with two counts of unlawful disclosure or promotion of visual material, a state jail felony punishable...
More Stories