Energy Lotto Update

GreenChoice renewable energy drawing raffled off the program's remaining 1,400 residential and 200 business subscriptions. Now What?

Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark assumed the posture of a power lifter and emitted an "umph" as he hoisted the ceremonial bingo-roller device that contained more than 5,300 entry cards for the city's GreenChoice renewable energy drawing last Thursday, which raffled off the program's remaining 1,400 residential and 200 business subscriptions, good for 10 years of clean electricity at a cost – at least for residential customers – roughly $16 a year cheaper than today's conventional coal, gas, and nuke-generated power. New business customers on hand included Highland Mall and Opal Divine's Freehouse.

GreenChoice, mainly powered by West Texas windmills (with a little help from solar panels and biogas from rotting garbage), is hugely popular; according to the U.S. Department of Energy, it's the best-selling renewable energy program in the country. It's so popular, in fact, that each previous GreenChoice batch has sold out. For this reason, local greens scorned Austin Energy for not having a fifth batch ready and waiting as the current fourth batch ran out. Then, perhaps all 5,000 people who entered the raffle could have been using clean energy instead of just the 1,600 winners. Asked about the gap, AE General Manager Juan Garza blamed Congress for letting a production tax credit for wind power lapse, causing industry growth to lull for about a year and a half, and diminishing wind energy supply. "We can only buy it if it's there. And they just weren't building," Garza said. Council Member Brewster McCracken's policy director, Karen Gross, said her office conceived the raffle in part to prove to AE that GreenChoice's demand was large.

Addressing another big GreenChoice criticism – why all the city's buildings aren't yet on the program – Anna Sabana, a city spokeswoman, said, "All buildingsÊin departments that operate out of the city's general fund, such as the municipal building, the police department, the Central Library, and the RBJ Health CenterÊhave already switchedÊto GreenChoiceÊBatch 4.ÊYet to go green are facilities categorized under the city's enterprise fund, including AE's headquarters, the convention center, the water utility, and the airport. "Every year as we planÊthe budget, we will look at what facilities will be addedÊfor GreenChoice Batch 5. We anticipate that some will beÊin the upcoming budget year," Sabana said. Batch 5, set to begin in late 2007, according to Clark, is expected to double the size of the entire program, adding 215 megawatts of wind power.

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