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

Cross-country team cleans up overflowing trash in elderly couple’s yard
Cross-country team cleans up overflowing trash in elderly couple’s yard

A high school cross-country team in upstate New York helped an elderly couple take out the trash Saturday -- lots of it. Ann and Robert Dobson live in the Rochester suburb of Greece. For more than six years, garbage from a nearby shopping plaza has blown onto the Dobsons’ front yard, Rochester First reported "Last summer when I cleaned...
Round Rock officer struck by car, seriously injured
Round Rock officer struck by car, seriously injured

A Round Rock police officer was struck and seriously injured Sunday morning while directing traffic around a crash along Interstate 35, officials said. Round Rock police responded to a call this morning about a pedestrian walking near I-35. When officers arrived on scene, there was a body in the roadway, Round Rock police officials said. Northbound...
College student discovers true paternity in science class
College student discovers true paternity in science class

One woman got a whole lot more than she paid for in a college science class when she uncovered a nasty family secret. The unnamed student discovered that her father — the man who had raised her since she was a child and who she called “dad” for her entire life — wasn’t really her father. He was her uncle. And the...
FORECAST: Thunderstorms could bring hail Sunday morning
FORECAST: Thunderstorms could bring hail Sunday morning

The Austin area could see some thunderstorms on Sunday, with rainfall likely according to the National Weather Service. Isolated thunderstorms could produce large hail over Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Lee, Hays and surrounding counties, with the chance of storms dwindling in the afternoon and evening hours, according to the weather service. The chance...
Traffic report for Monday, Feb. 26

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The northbound outside lane will be closed between Boggy Creek and Stassney Lane from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. The William Cannon exit will be closed as needed. The southbound outside lane will be closed between Stassney and Boggy Creek from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights. Reduced...
More Stories