Austin City Council Talking Points

Ever wonder what Public Citizen is telling your Austin City Council members?  Wish, granted!

scroll1Feb 11, 2009

Dear Council Member,

Will Austin remain a renewable energy leader or will it fade into the background as San Antonio, the Texas Legislature, and the Federal government move ahead to turn crisis into opportunity? Decision makers from all levels of government recognize that investing in clean energy projects will not only stimulate the economy but also combat climate change and localized pollution. Why would Austin pass this up?

We urge City Council to act now to approve the Webberville solar plant. We recognize the fact that the city faces an anemic budget this year due to reduced sales tax revenue. Since Austin Energy operates on a separate budget, it is in an advantageous position to keep its solar plans intact and on time.

Solar energy’s benefits far exceed its costs even during these uncertain economic tifcmes when you consider several factors:

  • Creates Jobs: Solar plants such as Webberville create local green jobs. Even though the photovoltaic panels will be manufactured elsewhere, Austin will get the construction, operation and maintenance jobs.
  • Economic Development: Without strong local support, we are unlikely to continue to attract renewable energy companies to locate here. SunPower, until recently, had an office in Round Rock. They have moved to California and the Philippines. What message are we sending to companies like this if we waver in our commitment to green energy?
  • Emissions Free: Solar power displaces the need for polluting power plants. When compared to its peak power alternative, it is estimated that the Webberville plant will cost about as much as peak power from the grid. However, when you consider that solar is emissions-free, it becomes a much more attractive option that protects the health of Austinites and moves us toward our greenhouse gas reduction goal.
  • Price Stability: The less dependence we have on fuel-based electric power, the greater our hedge against fuel price spikes. Since solar power does not require fuel, it is not subject to fuel price volatility, which caused electric bills across the state to spike last summer.
  • Shovel Ready: The federal stimulus bill will likely pass soon with money available for “shovel-ready” renewable energy projects like Webberville. This money is obviously not factored into the current cost estimate for the plant. It would improve the economics of it even more.

To lose the momentum Austin has gained toward a more sustainable energy sector would be foolish. Federal carbon regulation is soon expected, and every moment we delay increases the risk that Austin will have to pay more to keep its fossil fuel-based power plants online.

Let’s keep moving forward, keep and attract the jobs of the 21st century in Austin.


Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director
Public Citizen

David Power, Deputy Director
Public Citizen