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Posts Tagged ‘fayette coal plant’

A rate case is fundamentally about determining how much money an electric utility needs to collect from ratepayers to pay for expenses (and make some return on investment), how those expenses will be divided among the different customer classes (residential, commercial, industrial), and how customers in those different rate classes will be billed.  It’s probably obvious that these decisions can impact affordability and equity among customers.  Rate cases can also have significant environmental impacts though.

The Austin Energy rate case is an opportunity to make changes that can allow the utility to transition away from fossil fuels and towards greater reliance on clean energy solutions, including solar energy at homes and businesses, energy efficiency, energy storage and demand response (temporarily reducing usage when energy demand and prices spike).  What the utility spends money on, what programs are offered, and how rates are designed have profound impacts on climate change, air quality, water pollution, water use, land use – all of which impact society in a variety of ways, including public health and vulnerability to natural disasters.  So, it might sound boring at first, but if you care about the environment or social equity, you should care about how your electric utility is doing business.

What we’re advocating for:

  • 2009-08-21-fayette

    Fayette Power Project

    Budget to allow Austin Energy’s portion of the coal-fired Fayette Power Project to retire.  It is responsible for 80% of Austin Energy’s greenhouse gas emissions (and over 28% of Austin’s greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors).  It’s also a major source of other air pollution that causes and worsens respiratory diseases (sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides – which contributes to ground level ozone formation) and cause neurological disorders mercury.  And it requires over 5 billion gallons of water to operate.  The latest adopted plan for Austin Energy calls for the retirement of the utility’s portion of Fayette by 2023, and Austin Energy staff say its remaining debt associated with the plant must be paid off before it can be retired.  The plan calls for that money to be collected in a dedicated fund through annual budgeting, but that isn’t happening, putting the retirement plan at risk.  Please use our action page to email City Council about budgeting to retire Fayette.

  • Maintain residential rates that encourage energy conservation and allow thrifty customers to keep their bills low.  Austin Energy has proposed to increase electric rates for those who use the least energy and reduce them for those who use the most.  For those trying to reduce their electric usage for environmental reasons or because their household budgets are strained, Austin Energy’s proposal will increase bills.  Austin Energy’s proposal will also make it more difficult to project from year to year how higher much summer rates will be from winter rates.  Both of these changes would reduce the incentive to conserve energy and invest in energy efficiency upgrade.  And these changes were proposed despite a study that Austin Energy commissioned that said that the existing rate structure is succeeding in encouraging conservation.  These proposed changes to how residential customers are billed would be a step backwards.
  • LegalZoom Austin Solar Installation - Meridian Solar

    LegalZoom Austin Solar Installation – Meridian Solar

    Adopt a policy to fairly compensate businesses for energy they produce from solar energy systems.  The City Council has adopted goals solar energy on homes and businesses, but Austin Energy’s current policy doesn’t include any way for most commercial customers to receive compensation for the energy they provide to the utility.  Incentives have temporarily filled that gap, but they are coming to an end.  The value of solar (VoS) rate is used to provide bill credits to residential customers, based on the calculated value of local distributed solar energy.  The same method should be used to compensate commercial customers.  Making this policy change will help grow solar adoption, while shifting away from incentives.

  • Ensure that enough money is collected to fully fund energy efficiency, solar energy and demand response programs.  Helping customers reduce their electric bills by making energy efficiency improvement or install solar energy systems doesn’t just benefit those customers who participate in those programs, it benefits all customers by allowing the utility to avoid purchasing expensive power that would drive all of our bills up.  The Energy Efficiency Services fee is used to collect money for this purpose.  With more people moving to Austin all the time, Austin Energy needs to ensure that budgets are set to match the need for local energy improvements.

Public Citizen and Sierra Club jointly participated in the Austin Energy rate case over the past several months, in an effort to push the utility to make environmentally sound decisions about both spending and billing customers.  That was just a warm-up for the real decision-making process though.  Because Austin Energy is owned by the city of Austin, the Austin City Council will make the final decisions about the rate case.  That’s where you come in.  City Council members, including Mayor Adler, need to hear from Austin Energy customers.  There will be a public hearing on Thursday, August 25th at City Hall (time not set yet, but likely evening).  Mark your calendar and check back for the time.

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Tonight, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell will host a town hall meeting on an energy plan for Austin Energy that would establish our own carbon dioxide cap and reduction plan. The great news is that by 2020, Austin’s investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency would allow us to reduce our dependence on the Fayette coal plant by 30 percent! The town hall meeting is our opportunity to show widespread public support for the plan.

Please attend the mayor’s town hall meeting at 6 p.m. TONIGHT, Monday, Feb. 22, at the Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.

Public Citizen will have a table outside the auditorium where we will gather signatures for the Clean Energy for Austin coalition. Working with other environmental organizations, we’ve gained the support of more than 70 businesses, 18 nonprofits and over 200 individuals, who are calling on the City Council to pass the clean energy plan. But we need you to come to this town hall and show your support.

This is your opportunity to ask questions, learn more and have your input heard by our mayor. In addition, city officials will be asking questions of the audience, so you can tell the mayor and City Council that you want a clean energy future for our town.

So please endorse Clean Energy for Austin, and come to the meeting Monday night. We hope to see you there!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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I sure hope you don’t have any plans for the evening of Monday, February 22nd, because it is going to be the social event of the season (and by season, I mean this 6-week period of rain and cold we’re getting due to that pesky groundhog’s shadow prediction — curse you Punxsutawny Phil!). From 6-8pm Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell will host a town hall meeting on Austin Energy’s proposed energy generation plan. We need you to come to show your support for clean energy and energy efficiency in Austin.  All the cool kids are going to be there — just check out the list of stars on the Facebook event page.

The town hall will be an opportunity for Austinites to learn more about the Resource & Climate Protection Plan that I geeked out about last week. For those of you keeping score, I’m a fan of the plan because it will significantly reduce our carbon emissions, increase the diversity of our energy portfolio (with, a-hem, renewables), and sets us on a path to divestiture from the Fayette Coal Plant (Austin’s somewhat secret shame). But don’t take my word for it — more than 60 local businesses, 16 non-profit organizations, and over 200 individual supporters support it as well. To join them, visit CleanEnergyforAustin.org and add your name to a letter supporting the energy plan put forth by Austin Energy as well as the additional recommendations of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force (which our boy Matt was a member of, along with other stakeholders such as the Building Owners and Managers Association and Freescale).

I certainly hope you can make it out to the meeting February 22nd from 6-8pm at the Palmer Events Center. Look for the Public Citizen crew and stand with us to support Austin’s clean energy future!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Last Thursday Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan briefed Austin City Council on the utility’s Resource and Climate Protection Plan.  This plan is the culmination of 18 months of input from the public, the creation of a generation resource task force of various stakeholders to review various energy plans and make recommendations, and support and input from both the Electric Utility Commission and the Resource Management Com­mis­sion — but it still isn’t the end of the line for the plan.  The generation plan will also be the subject of a city-wide town hall meeting February 22nd, and city council is expected to vote on some version of it in March.

The energy plan that Duncan (who will be retiring soon and we wish him the very best) presented  sets Austin on a path to reduce our carbon emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and get a total of 35% of our energy from renewable resources. It will meet council’s renewable energy goals, move Austin Energy towards becoming the leading utility in the nation in terms of clean energy and global warming solutions, and re-affirm the city’s commitment to the Climate Protection Plan, which has the laudable goal to establish a cap and reduction plan for the utility’s carbon dioxide emissions.  It is a flexible, living document that will allow council to evolve and adapt as conditions change. AND it will reduce the capacity factor of our Fayette Coal Plant to 60% and gets the ball rolling on figuring out the best way to shut it down(which you know makes me happy). Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, doesn’t it?

As we’ve come to expect over the years from our award winning utility, Austin Energy is taking an especially responsible and forward-thinking role with this new plan.  I’ve formed this opinion for a few reasons:

  1. They’re adopting aggressive renewable energy and efficiency goals as part of a larger, smart business plan.  Austin doesn’t need a new generation plan because we’re going to be strapped for energy by 2020; Austin Energy could rest on their laurels and do nothing for the next ten years and we’d be fine buying up excess energy on the open market as its power purchase agreements expire and gas plants age.  But if they did that, by the time 2020 rolled around Austin would be way behind the technological curve and very likely be stuck with higher rates as a result.  Austin Energy has picked up on the national trend that the traditional fuels we rely upon, such as coal, are quickly becoming financial liabilities even as solar and wind are becoming more and more cost effective.  This plan will allow the utility to reposition itself  for 2020 going forward so that in ten years we will have made the preparations necessary to take full advantage of the coming clean tech boom rather than be left scrambling and dependent on outdated energy sources.
  2. Austin Energy and the task force that helped formulate this plan were very careful to balance considerations of reliability, affordability, and clean (in terms of the environment and human health).  The city has the responsibility to make sure that everyone who lives here can afford their utility bills.  It doesn’t do any good to make the switch to a new clean economy if we do so on the backs of those that can least afford it.  But that couldn’t be farther from the case with this plan; this isn’t green for some, this is green for all.  Compared to other options, this plan will minimize the impact for those least able to pay their electricity bill, supports in-house economic development and the hiring of local contractors, and ensures that everyone will have a chance to play a role in moving our city and economy forward.  There’s been a lot of focus and attention on the utility’s estimate that the plan will raise rates in 2020 by approximately 22% or $21 a month, but what’s missing from that discussion is that even if Austin Energy doesn’t do anything between now and 2020 rates will go up by 15% or about $14 a month.  So do the math — for an extra $7 a month in ten years, we can build up a clean local economy that minimizes impacts on low-income consumers and creates avenues to new employment opportunities, improves public health, AND puts Austin in a prime position to start lowering rates by taking advantage of cheap renewable energy. OR we can save families $7 a month compared to today on their utility bills but lose out on new jobs and leave every citizen in the city of Austin at the mercy of high fossil fuel costs and coming federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.  Austin Energy is not only looking at what is most affordable now, but what is most affordable in the long term. Coal may be cheap and reliable energy now, but depending on it in the long term will get us into trouble in terms of cheap and affordable in 2020.
  3. Austin Energy is not only reaching for the low fruit of emissions reductions and energy efficiency, they’re building high-tech ladders to get at the really juicy stuff at the top of the tree. Let me explain. There are a number of ways Austin Energy could go about reducing emissions.  The easiest of these would be to buy renewable energy credits, or RECs. RECs and offsets are in essence a mechanism for utilities, businesses, and governmental bodies to pay someone else to clean up and still get the credit for it.  They’re a good and have a positive influence on society at large because they do encourage clean energy investment and development, but not necessarily in a nearby community (in fact almost certainly not).  It might be easier in the short run to pay someone else to be clean up, but then we miss out on all the delicious creamy gravy that comes along with renewable energy development.  If you buy RECs you don’t get new jobs and businesses in your community.  If you buy RECs your own people are still breathing the same amount of pollution.  But Austin Energy is taking the initiative to really get at the heart of the problem by cutting the amount of pollution coming out of the smokestacks we own.  For that, they should be applauded.

This is just my own personal take-away from listening to various people discuss the recommendation plan and hearing Roger Duncan’s presentation to council. You can learn a lot more about the process and final recommended plan by visiting AustinSmartEnergy.com or CleanEnergyforAustin.org. Join us after the jump for some fast facts on the various components of the plan, but for the real nitty gritty check out Duncan’s own powerpoint presentation.

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If you were as frustrated as I was watching world leaders dither in Copenhagen while the Earth heats up and island nations continue making evacuation plans, there is good news on the horizon for Austin.

Austin Energy has developed a consensus plan that would establish our own CO2 cap and reduction plan. The great news is that by 2020, Austin’s investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency would allow us to reduce our dependence on the Fayette coal plant by nearly 30 percent! This energy plan will also bring a wide variety of jobs to the city, from innovative clean technology companies to installation, retrofit and construction jobs.

We need support to pass the plan now!

Public Citizen has helped form a coalition called Clean Energy for Austin. We’ve brought together businesses large and small, from Applied Materials to Greenling Organic Delivery, and 12 nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund to call on City Council to pass the energy plan.

The more individuals and businesses that join the coalition, the stronger the message to City Hall that our world-renowned green city must remain a leader in reducing pollution and creating a green economy.

Sign on as an endorser of Clean Energy for Austin!

Thanks,

Matt Johnson

Some background: This fall, I had the privilege of representing Public Citizen on the city’s task force charged with analyzing Austin Energy’s 2020 plan and making additional recommendations. We voted unanimously to upgrade Austin Energy’s energy efficiency goal, create a special self-sustaining market for local renewable power like solar rooftops and parking lots, and protect consumers’ pocketbooks by conducting periodic reviews in case costs change dramatically.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Wednesday afternoon from 5-7 pm, let’s get together to discuss how to make Austin’s Dirty Secret a secret no more! Join us at Spider House for our group’s first ever happy hour meet-up (complete with dirty drink specials!). We’ll discuss our plans for convincing City Council to phase out Fayette by 2020 or earlier and get to know each other over beer/coffee/food. Look for us in the back near the moving screening area.  And RSVP on the facebook event page so we have a rough head count!

See you there!

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Many thanks to everyone that made it to the Austin City Council meeting yesterday for an anti-coal demonstration! Twenty five to thirty concerned citizens stood up in City Council chambers, dressed in black to represent the yearly moralities from our Fayette Coal Plant, as Ryan Rittenhouse addressed the Council. Check out the video below for more, and join the facebook group Austin has a Dirty Secret to stay in the loop on future coal actions and demonstrations:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGyzeybQjSw]

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coal killsWith the Day of the Dead just around the corner, it’s the time of year to remember friends and family members who have died. That’s why we’ve decided to hold a demonstration at City Hall on Thursday at noon, wearing black, to recognize those who have died from complications related to living around the City of Austin’s coal plant.

Burning coal to create electricity has a high human cost. From childhood asthma to aggravated heart and respiratory problems, living downwind of a coal plant can take years off of your life. If you are a six year old or even a strapping adult with asthma and unlucky enough to live near a coal plant to boot, that is enough to send you to the emergency room on a regular basis. Individuals with heart conditions are in the same boat. And mercury emissions from the coal stacks that power our city find their way into waterways and are known to cause birth defects. A recently updated study by the Clean Air Task Force finds that our Fayette Coal Plant causes an average of fifty deaths each year.

City Council must take these considerations into account when planning our future energy mix. Why should others in the state of Texas die or live with crippling health problems when cleaner alternatives exist?

So come to City Hall at noon on Tuesday to show City Council your support for a clean energy plan that would phase out the coal plant as quickly as possible. Wear black in some way, and meet at 11:50 in the lobby so that we can coordinate. Parking at city hall is free on council meeting days. Please RSVP or contact Ryan Rittenhouse at 512-477-1155 with any questions.

Please also spread the word to similarly concerned friends and invite them to the “Austin has a dirty secret” facebook group so that they can be in the loop for future events or demonstrations.

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Today students from across the city of Austin came together in support of Austin moving forward in the direction of clean, renewable energy. University Democrats from the University of Texas, Campus Democrats from St. Edward’s University, the ReEnergize Texas Coalition, the University of Texas Campus Environmental Center and student Sierra Club members, among others, held a press conference to announce their support for a clean energy future for Austin.

Students also announced an exciting new development: The Student Government of the University of Texas has officially endorsed the call by environmental groups and citizens from across the city to divest from the Fayette Coal Plant and invest more in renewable energy sources.

Students spoke to points featured in Austin Energy’s PACE proposals and proposals submitted by a coalition of partners including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, and Power Smack.

Students also discuss how divesting from the Fayette Coal Plant benefits students and the community at large.

Featured speakers included Brittany Dawn McAllister, Austin Student Outreach Director for the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter, Andy Jones, Vice-President of University Democrats and President of Texas College Democrats, and Jimmy Talarico, UT Student Government University-Wide Representative and Legislative Policy Committee Vice-Chair.

Want more? Check out this video from the press conference, and don’t forget to join the Facebook group “Austin has a dirty secret”.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4qinQ_6dPg]

And an interview from ReEnergize Texas’ own Jacob Bintliff:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmIbx0obKbg]

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