How Cool Is Austin

2010 snapshot of the ACPP 'five plans'

How Cool Is Austin

Municipal Plan

Make all city of Austin facilities, fleets, operations carbon neutral by 2020.

Objective 1: All city facilities powered renewably by 2012

Cool: Fifty-three percent of city facilities now use GreenChoice (wind) energy, representing 23% of the city's entire energy use, according to most recent 2010 data. Remainder anticipated to move to GreenChoice by 2012. As of 2009, city has installed 157 kilowatts of solar capacity on city facilities.

Uncool: Percentage of renewable energy still relatively small, and cost to move to 100% is estimated at a yet unbudgeted $6.1 million (currently Austin Energy is absorbing excess GreenChoice cost to some departments). Fifty-five percent of city energy use is attributed to Austin Water; presumably there's much conservation work to be done. A year to meet overall objective seems optimistic.

Objective 2: City fleet vehicles carbon neutral by 2020

Cool: Approximately 57% of the fleet is now "alternative-fuel capable": biodiesel (38%), ethanol (8%), propane (6%), hybrid-electric (4%), electric (1%), natural gas (less than 1%). Fleet emissions now included in municipal inventory. Additional conversions, including on heavier trucks, still in planning, as are sufficient fueling and charging stations. Long-term plan calls for conversion to electric vehicles.

Uncool: "Alternative-fuel capable" does not mean currently using alternative fuels; lack of fueling stations also limits impact. Larger questions concern whether biodiesel, ethanol, etc., truly meet "alternative" or carbon-neutral standards, and ethanol (E85) increases air (ozone) pollution. Forty-three percent of fleet remains gasoline-only.

Objective 3: Develop and implement departmental plans

Cool: Completed 2007-2009 municipal inventory of greenhouse gases; created automated Climate Action Reporting System to track ongoing energy use, replacing manual calculations; 23 departmental and five building plans adopted and in implementation. ACPP planners expect CARS to enable departments to directly monitor and manage progress in meeting targets.

Uncool: Although all city staff are charged with carrying out ACPP policy, departmental plans are advisory only, with no program enforcement authority. Without full compliance to more aggressive standards, overall 2020 carbon neutrality goal is unlikely.

Objective 4: Develop employee education program and training for outreach

Cool: In 2009, 1,162 city employees and 2,486 students and community members were trained, using the city's Carbon Footprint Calcu­lat­or, to calculate personal carbon footprints. Training of all city staff and community outreach to continue; 2010 update to come. Online staff training in development.

Uncool: Due to shortage of ACPP personnel, 2010 training has not achieved rollout goals for either staff or community outreach. Calculator personalizes carbon footprint, but the larger impact is uncertain; will need to have communitywide engagement for substantial effect.

Utility Plan

How Cool Is Austin

Make Austin Energy a national leader for greenhouse-gas reductions.

Objective 1: Seven hundred megawatts saved through efficiency and conservation by 2020 (800 MW proposed in AE generation plan)

Cool: Fiscal year 2009 demand reduced 52.4 MW.

Uncool: Precise objective delayed by continuing questions over cost, to be considered by City Council later this year. Long-term success is dependent upon maintaining intermediate momentum.

Objective 2: Thirty percent renewable generation sources by 2020 (35% proposed in AE generation plan), including 100 MW solar power

Cool: Current renewable contracts (wind, biomass, solar) "on track" for 30% goal; solar rooftop program at 3.6 MW (2009).

Uncool: More aggressive renewable goals (e.g., 35% by 2020) are on hold, pending resolution of political debate over cost.

Objective 3: Establish and implement a CO2 cap and reduction plan

Cool: Cap goal is 20% below 2005 level; 2009 progress avoided 62,000 metric tons (see bar graph accompanying "Slow Burn").

Uncool: Adopted 2020 generation plan still on hold pending City Council consideration of "Affordability Matrix," now delayed until December. Overall progress steadily receding into future.

Objective 4: Carbon neutrality on any new generation units

Cool: Newly planned generation to come, from solar and biomass.

Uncool: Believe it when you see it.

Homes and Buildings Plan

How Cool Is Austin

Make Austin a national leader in energy efficient new building codes and upgrades of existing stock.

Objective 1: By 2015, implement requirement that all new homes be zero net-energy capable

Cool: City code changes (2007-2010) enable 31% reduction in energy consumed by new single-family homes.

Uncool: Current effect on new homes undetermined.

Objective 2: By 2015, implement 75% reduction in all other new private/public buildings

Cool: City code changes (2007-2010) enable 75% reduction in energy use in "all other buildings."

Uncool: Current effect on new construction undetermined.

Objective 3: Require energy retrofits and upgrades at point-of-sale

Cool: In 2009, 2,751 audits/upgrades completed on residences; 45 ratings submitted for review on commercial properties.

Uncool: Relatively limited results, as of 2009.

Objective 4: Improve and expand "Green Building" standards and incentives program, with potential certifications

Cool: Report pending on potential of city green building mandate for new projects; design phase incentives to come.

Uncool: Still in progress, awaiting departmental comments to city management.

Community Plan

How Cool Is Austin

City Climate Action Team to inventory communitywide greenhouse-gas emissions, establish reduction targets and comprehensive plan

Objective 1: Establish communitywide greenhouse-gas emissions inventory

Cool: 2007 inventory complete (see 2007 Travis County Footprint, a pie chart accompanying "Slow Burn"); 2010 inventory in progress; kickoff (March 2010) and community forum (August 2010) held; community action "summit" tentatively scheduled for spring 2011.

Uncool: Inventory pending, action pending, summit schedule tentative: treading water.

'Go Neutral' Plan

How Cool Is Austin

Develop and implement program to assist whole community in achieving carbon neutrality.

Objective 1: Develop online Carbon Footprint Calculator

Cool: Calculator available online – in both quick ("one-minute calculator") and more thorough versions. As of June 30, data shows 891 total registered users and 543 one-minute calculator users monthly (exceeding goal of 50 per month). Calculator available at nine public events as of June 30.

Uncool: Rollout barely achieved; number of registered users well below goal of 2,250 by July.

Objective 2: Implement "carbon offset" purchase program, via challenge grant

Cool: A good idea, hope to launch in 2010.

Uncool: Still pending.

Objective 3: Develop recognition/awards program for achieving carbon neutrality

Cool: Seven 2010 awards granted for individual, nonprofit, and commercial achievement.

Uncool: Whoopee!

Objective 4: Offer carbon offset purchases for city visitors

Cool: Promotional kiosks in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and Convention Center; seeking challenge grant.

Uncool: Educational progress only.

Objective 5: Develop coordinated regional greenhouse-gas reduction strategies

Cool: Training of 3,648 community members completed in 2009, a work in progress.

Uncool: Educational progress (slow) only.

Objective 6: Support state and federal greenhouse-gas reduction policies

Cool: City government liaisons providing policy support.

Uncool: There are virtually no such state or federal policies on climate change to support.

Source: Compiled from Austin Climate Protection Plan 2009 report to the Resource Management Commission, the 2010 "Update" matrix, and the July 2010 quarterly update, with supplemental reporting.

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