‘Virtual power plant’ wins Georgetown $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies


A plan to lease space on rooftops of homes and businesses to install solar panels has earned the city of Georgetown $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the U.S. Mayors Challenge.

Georgetown’s “virtual power plant” is among nine million-dollar winners announced Monday by Bloomberg Philanthropies, joining projects from Denver; Durham, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Huntington, West Virginia; Los Angeles; New Rochelle, N.Y.; Philadelphia; and South Bend, Ind.

City officials say installing solar panels on residential and commercial properties in Georgetown will bolster cost efficiency and reliability of the city’s renewable energy sources.

This summer, Georgetown became the largest U.S. city to purchase all of its energy needs from renewable sources. The city has contracts with NRG Energy’s Buckthorn solar plant in West Texas and EDF Renewable Energy’s Spinning Spur 3 wind farm, located near Amarillo.

“With Bloomberg’s support, we’ve developed a model with greater community support and better financial viability,” Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross said in a statement. “We look forward to making the ‘virtual power plant’ a reality.”

Georgetown submitted its application to the U.S. Mayor’s Challenge in October 2017. The city was named one of 35 finalists in February and received $100,000 from Bloomberg Philanthropies to develop its proposal. The city of Austin was also named a finalist.

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  1. Here are a few points that Mayor Ross and the Georgetown City Council overlook when touting Georgetown Utilities’ (GU) 100 percent wind and solar electric energy program:

    Although 85 percent of Texans can choose an electric service plan from numerous electric retailers in the areas of Texas that have been opened to retail competition, which occurred in 2002, GU’s captive customers have no choice. One size fit all.

    The mayor claims that the locked-in wind and solar rates will produce a better outcome for GU’s captive customers, but GU will not release the terms of the wind and solar contracts.

    GU refuses to reveal the analyses, if any, showing the long-term price projections for electric energy generated by alternative fuels over the terms of the contracts. The price of natural gas, for example, has been trending downward for more than a decade. If it stays low or trends lower, it could undercut GU’s long-term locked in rates for wind and solar.

    GUS’s customers pay some of the highest electric rates in the area. The fully allocated cost of 500 kWh of residential electric energy from GUS is 13.98 cents per kWh. In Round Rock residents can choose from 34 electric service plans that offer rates up to 28 percent lower than the rate in Georgetown for 500 kWh. Moreover, Round Rock residents can opt for a variety of special rates, e.g. free weekends, 100 percent renewable energy, etc.

    The mix of sourced electric energy that flows into Georgetown is the same as that for the grid. Last year 17.4 percent of the power generated in Texas came from wind; less than one percent came from solar. The remainder was generated by coal, natural gas, and nuclear. And it is this mix of sourced electric energy that flows into Georgetown.

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