Chair of the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force has not only been a
mouthful to say, it has been a great opportunity to participate in local
government and to experience first hand the importance of our community
March, the Task Force didn't get going until mid April. For the next 14 weeks, we met weekly, holding
two public meetings, with a final meeting on July 9th. You can view The Plan on our web site. But just as important as the plan are the
various reports and presentations that were given to the Task Force that are
also posted on the web site.
immediately after the plan was published in print form, a City Council Resolution containing many of the recommendations in the plan began to get
traction at Council. It also included
elements of other actions by the Electric Utility Commission and other
environmental groups. Another
resolution, which included other Task Force elements dealing with efficiency
and weatherization also gained support.
Austin Energy, the utility that was being told what to do, went nothing short
of postal in its position on the Task Force Report. Even though the Task Force Report made it
clear by the endorsement of the affordability metrics adopted by Council as
the first recommendation in the
report, the utility went on a scare campaign. The second recommendation on
zero carbon by 2030 was equally constrained with the same affordability language.
Yet, the Utility continued to appear on the
front pages of the local newspaper, mailing to its commercial energy customers,
and speaking openly that the adoption of the main elements of the plan would be
a financial disaster. "I can tell
you that replacing Decker with solar power contracts would be an economic
disaster for rate payers", said the Austin Energy general manager.
This was in
contradiction to his statement in March 2014 when he said that the 150 MW west
Texas solar deal would have a "very small but favorable impact to the
power supply adjustment."
Yet, in a rather
famous evening at Austin City Council, The Affordable Energy Resolution was
passed on a vote 5 to 0 with the Mayor and Council Member Spelman off the dias.
The Lone Star
Chapter of the Sierra Club reported it this way:
Affordable Clean Energy Plan Adopted
ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030
Austin, Tex. – A diverse coalition of
groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean
energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of
expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the
Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday
The resolution comes after years of
community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan,
identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and
climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after
community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy
and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.
The Affordable Energy Plan calls for
Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable
sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by
2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by
investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000
“Solar is now cheaper than building a new
natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save
Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of
Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group. “We’re grateful for the strong
leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo,
Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”
The landmark resolution also takes
significant steps to expand local solar power.
It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that
goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And
the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar
leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin
Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.
I was in Mexico in the mountains when the vote
came. But since it was so late, the
internet was working good enough to see it all come down. It was a thing of beauty. And don't let any
one tell you differently. A hundred
people had waited all day to speak in support
of the resolution and were now being told that they must come back the next day. An alert Council member Martinez
saw that there was no one signed up to speak against the resolution and so he
made a motion to reconsider the postponement and bring the resolution up.
That motion passed over the Mayor's
objection. After some brief comments
from supporters and one activist who had signed up neutral on the resolution,
the resolution passed 5 to 0.
The next day there was a lot
of hubbub about it all and so a reconsideration motion was made by the Mayor
pro tem. That failed 3 to 3.
Thus the first act ended.
Labels: advanced tech, climate change, the world