Austin Energy Generation Resource Planning Task Force Recommendations: An Excerpt

The task force set forth several recommendations addressing affordability issues or specifically targeting low-income ratepayers; those recommendations are excerpted here.

1c, iii) Austin Energy should pursue aggressive efforts to diversify its energy efficiency programs and extend the benefits of [demand-side management] throughout the community by ... developing a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach for weatherization services and other DSM program offerings ... by identifying, targeting, and conducting specific outreach efforts to the most energy intensive low income neighborhoods.

3) The Task Force recommends that the City Council adopt an affordability goal that Austin Energy's rates for all classes of customers should be competitive with rates available in the marketplace from other utilities serving the Texas market.

3c) The anticipated impact of the generation plan on customer rates of all classes should be published in connection with any rate proposal and at the conclusion of the rate case [in 2012].

6) Reduce Bill Impact on Those Least Able to Pay: Projected future increases in energy prices will burden the poorest in our community the most. Utility bills often represent the second highest bill facing a family, after the cost of housing. It is an ethical obligation that the City of Austin ease the burden on those least able to bear it. The Task Force recommends:

a) expanded programs for low income citizens to reduce the energy intensity of their homes; in light of the recent Recovery Act funds available to the City of Austin for weatherization ... Austin Energy should raise its own income criteria to a minimum of 200 percent of poverty and continue the program beyond the date the Recovery Act requirements terminate in 2011;

b) Austin Energy should explore mechanisms to make energy efficiency programs available to those with incomes between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty guideline, such as rebates, loans, or some combination; as part of this effort, Austin Energy should conduct a study specific to Austin Energy to determine income levels, energy burden and population sizes for residential consumers with household incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty guideline;

c) Austin Energy should find ways and seek grants from other sources to make distributed energy generation resources available and affordable for low and medium income households (after they have been weatherized) as a hedge against future increases in energy prices;

d) the City Council should act aggressively to assure that rented living spaces, which are disproportionately populated by lower income citizens, are given special attention through energy efficiency program outreach; and

e) any future generation planning advisory group should include representatives of residential and low-income consumers knowledgeable about energy affordability issues and solutions.

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