The Hideout Theatre & Coffeehouse
"...In a special-called noon work session today, City Council is poised to approve a settlement recommendation between Austin Energy and 20 stakeholders – from major commercial customers to environmental advocacy groups – that would result in $42.5 million in cuts to AE rates...."
"...Admittedly, those figures should soon change for the better. AE is nearly finished installing "SO2 scrubbers," which are expected to take a big bite out of its sulfur dioxide emissions – good news for Austin, just 60 miles downwind..."
"...She reminded the audience (perhaps 75 people at its peak) of the importance of a public utility, and the potential loss of the municipal utility if its finances can't be stabilized. (Interference from the Lege was never quite explicit, but that's the storm looming if the city can't get AE's house in order, or if the threats of deregulation from conservative pols are finally realized.)..."
"...However, the court records do reflect – and city utility documents appear to confirm – that the manner in which Austin police developed a case against Colby, and against at least three other persons, was questionable and possibly based on an illegal search. Colby's lawyer, David Dudley, argues that APD Detective Jeff Haynes used energy-consumption information from thousands of Austin Energy customers – without those customers' knowledge or consent – in an effort to find and focus upon AE customers who, in Haynes' opinion, regularly consume more kilowatt-hours than he believed "typical" for the size of their residence..."
"...Last summer, when Pedernales Electric Cooperative ousted general manager Juan Garza, some onlookers – many of them environmentalists – thought what was bad news for Garza might prove good news for Austin Energy, then in search of a new GM to replace the retired Roger Duncan. City Council Member Bill Spelman suggested including Garza as a last-minute candidate, and Duncan himself put in a good word for the former PEC head, who had in fact held AE's general manager position once before, prior to his tenure at the scandal-plagued electricity cooperative..."
"...Announced in August, the plan recommended by Austin Energy staff succeeds in fulfilling the expectations of the Austin Climate Protection Plan, even surpassing them on many counts. But in these harsh economic times, that good news has been somewhat overshadowed by concerns over the plan's financial implications, especially for AE's most vulnerable customers – low-income ratepayers...."
"...1, a plan that would completely ramp down the Fayette coal plant by 2014. The remaining five members provided the majority vote to support the (unnumbered) generation mix AE had recommended in August, but with a proviso that AE "review the plan in two years with the target of accelerating the phase down of Fayette plant and toward its eventual closure by 2020 if economically and technologically feasible."..."
"...At a minimum, the latest shift in AE's proposal will take time to review and debate, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell in particular expressed doubt that Council could meet AE's recommended timeline of a March approval. Much of that uncertainty was echoed in the Jan..."
"...As such, council has held off on making a decision, and the mayor organized Monday's panel discussion to provide yet another opportunity for all to have their say. In the interim, Duncan seemed to have strengthened his defense of AE's plan..."
"...30. AE and solar industry firms had claimed the program could be ready to go as early as April 1, but, well, it wasn't..."
"...Ott's position is in rare alignment with consumer advocates, who last week urged Council not to head down the restructuring path. Ironically, advocacy reps had spent the better part of last year blaming the city manager and AE officials for bungling a contentious, high-profile rate case, which in turn caught the attention of the Legislature and ignited talks of restructuring..."
"...Last week, when the city announced three finalists in the running for general manager of Austin Energy, the list was less notable for who was on it (no one had heard of Ronald Davis, Larry Weis, or David Wright) than for who wasn't: Karl Rábago, AE's vice president of distributed energy services. A collective groan was heard among local environmentalists who had hopes that Rábago – whose local, state, and national experience make him a green "rock star," as Robin Rather has put it – would succeed the retired Roger Duncan..."
"...Despite the common solar-industry mantra that "prices are coming down," it nonetheless came as a surprise in May when Austin Energy secured a solar power purchase agreement with Recurrent Energy for less than 5 cents per kilowatt hour. AE had seemingly leapt into the future..."
"...First, there was grumbling over who wasn't on the list, most notably AE's vice president of distributed energy services, Karl Rábago, heavily favored by the environmental community (see "AE Finalists: California Dreamin'," June 25). Then, recently retired GM Roger Duncan leapt into the fray to urge consideration of his former boss Juan Garza, who preceded Duncan as AE's general manager and was suddenly available to take the job back, having been freshly fired from the same position at the Pedernales Electric Cooperative..."
"...• Monthly Discounts for Qualifying Households: AE offers a waiver on customer charges for electricity, water, and wastewater; a 50% drainage fee reduction; and a reduced fuel charge, from 3.65 cents to 1.7 cents. At the average monthly residential use of 1,000 kilowatt hours, these discounts altogether amount to about $43 a month, or more than $500 a year...."
"...With some nudging from City Hall, AE assembled a citizen steering committee to draw up new policy for the long term. In the short term, Council Member Kathie Tovo took the lead in developing what she called a "stop-gap" ordinance (with drafting assistance from Bierdzycki), which went into effect immediately upon passage..."
"...Instead, the city gave them the chance to interview each candidate for up to 90 minutes and to brief city staff on their thoughts afterward. The city arranged a similar meeting for representatives from the business community later in the day (July 1), on top of three other interviews originally planned – two for city officials (one with executives, another with AE staff) and a third with relevant board and commission members – bringing the grand, grueling total to five..."
"...28), City Council discusses Austin Energy's 2020 generation plan proposal, hoping to establish the right mix of traditional and renewable energy resources to power Austin's homes and businesses through the next decade. Despite nearly two years of deliberation on the plan – and support for AE's proposal from the Electric Utility Commission, the Resource Management Commission, and the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force – council is unlikely to be making any quick decisions..."
"...Here are some of the arguments that have been made for and against retiring (or selling) the Fayette Power Project, though some (marked with *) are relevant more specifically to plans that have been proposed to retire the plant sooner rather than later. Note: Supporters of retiring Fayette are not necessarily the same group as the supporters of selling it, though there may be overlap; the same can be said of the opponents. Should AE Retire FPP by 2020?..."
"...In 2003, Austin Energy deputy general manager Roger Duncan was asked by Mayor Will Wynn to find innovative ways to make Austin greener. At the time, AE was struggling over how to manage West Texas wind power..."
"...Earlier last week, the mayor decided to postpone indefinitely the original proposal to grant a nonpolitical board sovereign powers over AE, but he resisted deep-sixing it altogether, even though it doesn't appear to be going anywhere. Meanwhile, Chris Riley, with Mike Martinez and Laura Morrison, moved ahead with a new proposal to create a council subcommittee to study the governance question...."
"...At a Tuesday community meeting on Austin Energy's new Resource & Climate Protection Plan, Karl R. Rábago, AE vice president of distributed energy services, pitched the importance of long-range cost benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions..."
"...Beyond that AE matter – and it remains a doozy – there doesn't appear to be a great deal of heavy lifting waiting on the 85-item agenda. Council had an abbreviated work session (Google calling!) and spent most of it discussing a proposal from Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Chris Riley to rewrite the demolition permit ordinance to allow more flexibility – they say the ordinance sometimes works, paradoxically, to rush demolitions before they're necessary..."
"...Beyond that AE matter –- and it remains a doozy -– there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of heavy lifting on the 85-item agenda. Council spent its abbreviated work session (Google calling!) mostly discussing a proposal (Item 36) from Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Chris Riley to rewrite the demolition permit ordinance to allow more flexibility – they say the ordinance sometimes works, paradoxically, to rush demolitions before they’re necessary..."
"...That's like asking why Hummer owners should have to pay more for gas. Also, didn't they know their electricity would come from city-owned Austin Energy before they closed on their homes? At the same time, Brown and other critics have raised some valid questions about how the city spends the revenue transferred from AE to the general fund..."
"...The case is expected to go to City Council for a briefing in December, followed by a series of public hearings early next year. But Public Citizen's Tom "Smitty" Smith urged council members to reject the package outright by directing AE "to go back to the drawing board and do this rate case over." He said the large industrial customers, whose rates are locked in until 2015, will be getting cheaper rates at the expense of residential customers and small businesses...."
"...(A third finalist, Ronald Davis of Burbank, Calif., has dropped out of the running.) On Wednesday, Weis and Wright were in town to meet with city officials and were expected to speak at a public forum in the evening. For those who missed the visit, here are some of the candidates' thoughts on how their experiences might shape AE's future. Larry Weis Turlock Irrigation District, Turlock, Calif...."
"...AE Chief Operating Officer Mike McCluskey on Tuesday addressed criticisms over the haste with which the deal was introduced to the public (first appearing on an Aug. 7 council agenda)..."
"...Some of these contained detailed criticisms from HURF, PUC staff, and a state-level consumer agency called the Office of Public Utility Counsel. Those groups attacked AE’s ratemaking and questioned its stated revenue requirements...."
"...In a near-complete turnaround from its public position just a week ago, Austin Energy has announced plans to adopt specific, highly ambitious, and undeniably expensive goals for adding solar energy to the Austin electric and economic mix. At a town hall meeting held Tuesday night to discuss the AE plan -- also the subject of a public hearing at City Council today (Thursday) -- AE's Roger Duncan announced the utility's commitment to develop 15 megawatts of solar generating capacity by 2007, escalating to 100 megawatts by 2020..."
"...The utility based its decision on an analysis by California-based Clean Power Research – the same consulting firm that developed the more favorable value of solar rate that Council adopted in 2012 as part of a new rate design package. While AE says the firm's recommendation was driven mainly by reduced natural gas prices, environmental and consumer advocates, led by Public Citizen, don't believe it was based on accurate or complete data..."
"...The cost of wind power is going down -- to the point where it's as cheap as natural gas (whose price is going up) as an electricity source, or even cheaper. But Austin Energy is asking the City Council today (Thursday) to approve a higher price for new customers for AE's GreenChoice program -- an ironic testament to the program's success and the growing perception of the value of renewable energy...."
"...Arguably, the plan council settled on after weeks of work sessions and public discussion – and oh yes, an election campaign – is essentially the tribute politics is paying to inflation since 1994. It raises rates not nearly as dramatically as AE staff had proposed, but with the anticipation of another increase in two years and more frequent rate reviews, it creates a new tier system that should both encourage conservation and protect customers at the lower tiers of usage (and presumably income); it also expands the existing aid program for low-income citizens who need it...."
"...It's been 17 years since AE has sought a rate increase, so at first blush, asking customers to pay more for electricity sounds entirely reasonable. But under the current proposal, residential ratepayers who use the lowest amount of electricity would end up paying the largest rate increase..."
"...Directed by: Park Chan-wook. Starring: Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-sik, Go Su-hee and Lee Seung-shin..."
"...Spearheading the project is Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken, backed by Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan. (The City Council serves as AE's board of directors, and the mayor is board chair; it should not go unnoticed that McCracken is a presumptive mayoral candidate for May 2009.) Joining McCracken in sponsoring the council resolution were Randi Shade and Laura Morrison, the other members of the Council Committee for Emerging Technologies and Telecommunications...."
"...But Duncan is most emphatic about the energy-storage possibilities presented as more automobiles can be plugged in to the electric grid. The abundant battery capacity of plug-in hybrid autos ideally fueled with renewable energy and even on-site wind or solar generators can not only achieve extended zero-emissions driving, but also power one's home once plugged in, or help support the overall grid, Duncan said (see "AE & Plug-In Hybrids," p.35)..."
"...Tonight may be your only chance to see the Austin Energy general manager candidates up close and personal before the city decides who gets AE's top job...."
"...• The Future of AE: The public hearing on the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan closed last week ("With All Deliberate Speed," Aug. 14), but now the dais needs to wrestle with just how aggressive the utility's overall planning goals need to be..."
"...Of these, only 94 were rated in the same manner as typical Texas schools. Exemplary:15 Recognized:9 Acceptable:31 Low Performing:39 Another 24 were not rated because they are new (16), have insufficient data (seven), or in one case, serve kindergarten and pre-K only. Another 112 "applied and were identified as eligible to be evaluated under alternative-education procedures" and are thus rated as follows: AE: Commended: 3 AE: Acceptable: 53 AE: Needs Peer Review: 50 (This is the equivalent of Low Performing in the standard rankings.) AE: Not Rated: 6..."
"...Last summer, the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force issued a bold recommendation to Austin Energy, the city's municipally owned utility. Charged with the task of translating stakeholder input into viable guidelines for meeting climate plan goals and updating AE's generation plan, the appointed citizen group concluded that solar power should be AE's "default new generation resource through 2024."..."
"...According to the U.S. Department of Energy, AE's highly esteemed GreenChoice program is ranked No..."
"...Austin Independent School District Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and AISD General Counsel Mel Waxler had worried the rate increase would offer similar challenges to schools. Yet here they were to support the new proposal – and a rate increase that could return AE to relative solvency...."
"...Three days before the public hearing was scheduled to begin (with a preliminary session Friday morning), whispers began about a potential settlement. By Thursday's Council meeting, everyone was ready to hear the details of what the averted crisis was going to cost AE; the term sheet only became available late Friday morning, just before Council members approved the settlement in that form..."
"...And even if the $183 million were gathering dust, we shouldn't rely on it to bridge the gaps in the budget. All arguments that may carry this round -- but which won't forever quash the questions born of the complicated relationship between Austin Energy, City Hall, and the citizens.Waiting on Dereg What Robbins calls the "slush fund" is Austin Energy's Debt Management Fund, created to house "excess electric utility cash" by the City Council in December 1996, as part of its major push to get AE ready for the new era of electric deregulation..."