Austin Energy's Strategic Plan

The details of the utility's 50-year vision for the future

The much-discussed long-range strategic plan for Austin Energy is a 50-year vision into the future for a billion-dollar (public) corporation that, thanks to state and federal law in this deregulated era, needs not and does not disclose much of the information that underlies the plan itself. So don't expect to find out too much about AE's long-term fiscal and debt-management policy, or the day-to-day operations of its generation and transmission system, or its approaches to future customer service. But the utility has felt free to share the outlines of its long-term "energy resource plan," which is what clean-energy advocates care about most. Some highlights:

Increase energy efficiency and conservation programs to meet 15% of Austin's energy needs by 2020.

Use renewable sources to meet 20% of Austin's energy needs by 2020. (The "portfolio standard" for conservation and renewables together is expected to reach 15% by 2010 and 20% by 2013.)

Fossil Fuels
Minimize the AE system's current dependence on natural gas.

Holly Power Plant
Close it by 2007. The plan does not commit to replacing all of Holly's power through conservation and renewables, as was sought by Council Member Brewster McCracken and other solar advocates -- the utility would rather wait a few years "for renewable technology to improve and prices to fall" before making that leap. The utility's current priorities for replacement power are (in order): conservation, "dispatchable" renewables (sources you can turn on and off, unlike the sun and wind), natural gas, nuclear power, and "clean coal.


  • Create the nation's most generous solar rebate program -- $5 per watt for any photovoltaic installation, plus an expanded rebate for domestic water heating. (The utility's prior solar-thermal water heater rebate went almost completely unused.)
  • Create solar demonstration projects -- installing PV on every middle school, branch library, and community center in Austin, and creating an affordable "zero energy" subdivision of energy-efficient solar homes.

    Global Warming
    Support efforts to impose mandatory carbon controls on all utilities at the national level. (Austin Energy has made a voluntary agreement with the World Wildlife Fund to reduce its carbon emissions, and would like to see other -- potentially competing -- utilities have to do the same thing.)

    Your Thoughts?
    The Austin Energy strategic plan is currently slated for a City Council public hearing ("and possible action") next Thursday, Dec. 4, with final action scheduled for Dec. 11; the council has already gotten a presentation from AE leaders in executive session. The real public hearing will be the Austin Clean Energy Initiative's town hall meeting Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 6:30pm at the MCC Auditorium, 3925 W. Braker Lane (at MoPac). Panelists are expected to include McCracken; AE Vice-President Roger Duncan and planner Mark Kapner; city economic development officer Sue Edwards; and city Resource Management Commission Chair (and Texas General Land Office Manager) Adan Martinez.

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