The Austin Chronicle

2020: More Solar, Higher Cost

By Nora Ankrum, August 21, 2009, News

On Monday, Aug. 17, Austin Energy announced to City Council its early recommendation for meeting the city's energy needs through the year 2020. Overall, the generation plan proposal exceeds the goals set by the Austin Climate Protection Plan (see "Climate Protection Mandates," below), most notably with an extra 100 megawatts of energy efficiency savings and a higher renewable portfolio standard (35%) than that set by council (30%). While the plan does not close the Fayette coal plant, it does propose "setting the stage for eventual sale or other disposition of Austin's share." Asked whether AE could act sooner if economic or other conditions make closure of Fayette – or any other, greener measures – look more favorable before 2020, General Manager Roger Duncan said that's possible, as AE will be reviewing the plan every three years or so. Environment Texas has praised the plan. Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter conservation director Cyrus Reed, a member of the Generation Resource Planning Task Force, says he applauds the emphasis on rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and reduced coal dependence but encourages the city's consultants "to study the possibility of phasing out Fayette faster." The plan is expected to lead to a 22% increase in monthly electric bills by 2020. See AE's full recommendation here.

AE's Goals at a Glance

Achieve 800 megawatts of energy savings through efficiency and load shifting.

Meet 35% of power needs through renewable resources including wind, solar, and biomass.

Expand the Sand Hill natural gas plant by 200 megawatts of combined-cycle gas generation while maintaining existing natural gas generation resources.

Continue current level of participation in South Texas Project nuclear plant.

Reduce amount of power drawn from Fayette coal plant by one-third.

Reduce CO2 emissions to 20% below 2005 levels.

Reduce water-use intensity by 20%.

Establish new business model to accommodate changes in the business environment, cost increases, and transformation of energy supply.

Climate Protection Mandates

The ACPP directs Austin Energy to:

1) Establish a CO2 cap and reduction plan for existing emissions.

2) Achieve carbon neutrality for new power generation through carbon capture and storage, mitigation measures, and technologies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

3) Reach 700 megawatts of energy savings through increased efficiency and conservation.

4) Meet 30% of all energy needs with renewables, including 100 megawatts of solar.

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