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

Middle school runner chooses kindness over competitiveness
Middle school runner chooses kindness over competitiveness

A middle school athlete from Michigan showed that sportsmanship was more important than winning a cross country race, UpNorthLive.com reported. >> Read more trending news Amelia Malburg, an eighth-grader at Mason County Eastern, was running in a meet when she noticed her teammate was on the ground and struggling. Malburg said she generally...
Katrina victim says FEMA demanded money back 7 years later
Katrina victim says FEMA demanded money back 7 years later

A Florida woman said she was forced to pay back thousands of dollars she received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after Hurricane Katrina. >> Read more trending news Deborah Campbell said the IRS came after her seven years after she got the money. "We were guaranteed that this was not needed to be repaid," the Jacksonville...
Iran tests new ballistic missile
Iran tests new ballistic missile

Iran tested a new ballistic missile that reportedly is capable of carrying multiple warheads, CNN reported Saturday, citing the nation's state-run broadcaster announced. >> Read more trending news “Iran has released footage of the successful test-launch of its new ballistic missile, Khorramshahr, a few hours after it was unveiled during...
Memo: Seattle officer bragged that 'mini Mafia' controlled off-duty contracts
Memo: Seattle officer bragged that 'mini Mafia' controlled off-duty contracts

As an FBI investigation into Seattle’s off-duty police work unfolds, additional claims of questionable tactics by officers have emerged, including a report that one policeman proudly called his fellow officers a “mini Mafia” in the way they secured, enforced, and collected on private security and traffic contracts in the booming city...
Trump touts transparency on Twitter
Trump touts transparency on Twitter

President Donald Trump has no intention of scaling back his Twitter presence.  >> Read more trending news The president, campaigning for fellow Republican Luther Strange in Alabama on Friday night, touted his provocative and sometimes controversial tweets, CNN reported. "That is the great thing about Twitter," Trump said during...
More Stories