Austin Energy changes future plans for power plants, solar energy

After reaching a compromise with a local environmental group, Austin Energy has changed its long-term plan for future energy use.



The Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan will now include updates that alter the previous timelines and goals that called for Austin to utilize more renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power. Austin City Council approved the changes during its Dec. 11 meeting—the final meeting before the new 11-member council assumes City Hall.



Mayor Lee Leffingwell questioned the affordability of the plan when it was presented to City Council a week before the Dec. 11 vote. In an effort to curb any steep rate increases, City Council mandated an affordability goal to Austin Energy that prevents customer energy rates from increasing more than 2 percent each year.



Councilman Mike Martinez supported the plan at a rally prior to the Dec. 11 vote, explaining the new long-term plan can be affordable.



"We're putting every measure we can into this generation plan to make sure [it is affordable] and that we stick to our affordability policy," Martinez said. "We want to be green, we want to be clean but we also want to maintain affordability for our ratepayers. This policy does that."



How the plan will affect ratepayers' bills has not yet been determined or broken down, Martinez said.



Councilman Chris Riley sponsored a resolution that City Council passed Aug. 28 that would require Austin Energy to phase out Decker power plant and buy 600 MW of solar energy by 2017; about 1,000 homes can be powered by 1 MW. His plan also called for shutting down Decker by 2017.



However, the new plan projects Decker power plant will not be retired until the end of 2018. The new stipulations also require Austin Energy to purchase 110 MW of local solar by 2020 with 70 MW coming from customers—usually through residential rooftop panels.



Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, said the new plan does not trump Riley's but instead allows for more flexibility in the timelines for achieving each goal.



Updates to the plan also allow for a potential new natural gas plant to be built by 2018. Multiple residents spoke out against the new plant proposal before council's Dec. 11 deliberations. Even those speakers who called the plan a step forward for Austin said they do not agree with any stipulation that potentially allows the development of a new natural gas plant.



Two amendments made by Councilwoman Kathie Tovo sought to create protections before the city would grant final approval of any new natural gas plant. Her amendments emphasize the plan's Dec. 11 passage does not give Austin Energy any green light to develop a new gas plant. Instead, the new 11-member City Council—Tovo is the only returning member from the outgoing council—will grant final approval. Tovo also amended language to ensure any study that looks into the need for a new power plant is conducted independent from the city or public energy provider.



Rachel Stone, a clean energy attorney for Environment Texas, said a new natural gas–powered plant does not make sense during a looming drought given the vast amount of water needed to run such an operation.



MOST RECENT

Austin, Travis County and Austin ISD officials gathered Sept. 24 to discuss local resilience planning. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin, Travis County, AISD look to build collaboration on community disaster hubs

The governments and school district are looking to grow a network of facilities that can provide resources to residents amid weather emergencies.

Screen shot of Desmar Walkes speaking at a press conference
Austin Public Health eyes possible shift to Stage 4 guidelines

Local health leaders said they want to see the current downward trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations persist before making any changes.

Kyle City Council voted 6-1 and approved the new citywide trail master plan that will utilize 2020 bond election funds for trails that will help connect Austin to San Antonio. (Courtesy Pexels)
CI Nation roundup: Perfect Game coming to Cedar Park; Kyle City Council approves trail master plan to connect Austin to San Antonio and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 24.

Huston-Tillotson University is one of three Austin sites tapped to move toward national historic designation in September. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
East Austin university and high school stadium, Allandale 'air-conditioned village' move toward national historic recognition

The former Anderson High School stadium and Huston-Tillotson University could soon be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said Sept. 23 though the district has been awarded emergency funding, it has only had access to a fraction of it. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD superintendent lays out barriers to receiving emergency funding

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said while it seems that the district has received "millions and millions," it has been able to use a fraction of granted emergency funds.

Austin is one of five cities worldwide included in the company's new integration. (Benton Graham/Community Impact)
Electric scooter company Bird will now show available Capital Metro bikes in its app

Riding a scooter this weekend? Keep an eye out for Bird’s new integration with Capital Metro’s bikeshare.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; former Round Rock Steak N' Shake to become Whataburger and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Kevin Foster, an Austin ISD board trustee, alerted the board Sept. 23 to his concern about a police response at LBJ Early College High School last week. (Maggie Quinlan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin ISD trustee questions police response after hoax 911 call

After a large police response to a falsely reported school shooting last week, one member of the Austin ISD board of trustees is concerned about police scaring students.

The new signs are visible at the intersections of San Antonio Street and Sandra Muraida Way. (Courtesy Austin Transportation Department)
New parking signs in downtown Austin will update number of available spaces for 3 lots in real time

The signs provide real-time parking information for the Austin City Hall, Austin Central Library and Seaholm lots. They will begin to show the real-time data next week.

Several parents of New Caney ISD students spoke at the district's Sept. 20 board meetings about recent allegations that a student brought a firearm to Porter High School's Sept. 18 homecoming dance. NCISD Superintendent Matt Calvert stressed that no gunshots were fired at the event, and that the district is investigating the allegations. (Wesley Gardner/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI Nation roundup: Round Rock ISD trustees considered for censuring; New Caney ISD addresses allegations of student with gun at campus event and more top stories

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Sept. 23.