Your Electric Bill Is About to Go Way Up

Dec. 9: Council approves new Austin Energy rates; advocates disappointed.


A speaker opposed to the Austin Energy base rate increase testifies at a Nov. 15 City Council hearing (Photo by Jana Birchum)

In April, Austin Energy issued its first proposal in what became a nine-month process (which ended just last week) to change its rate structure and increase its base customer charge (the part of the power bill paid by all users, regardless of how much electricity they use). The ratepayer-owned utility originally asked for an increase of $15 to that base rate, and a flattening of the progressive kilowatt-hour rate structure from the former five tiers to three. Interveners in the case argued the base rate hike would constitute rate shock, especially for low-income customers, and that the tier flattening would disincentivize conservation and thus impede AE's progress under the Climate Equity Plan to help the city achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

The rate case has ripple effects beyond increasing Austin­ites' energy bills: As interveners pointed to AE's failure to close its share of the coal-fueled Fayette Power Project, which also puts the climate plan's goals at risk, Council directed AE to reopen its 2030 Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan in anticipation of federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act for coal divestment. On Dec. 8, in one of its last actions of the year, City Council approved a base rate hike of $9 per month for the average customer and a four-­tier structure, though some on the dais think it could have been lowered further. On top of an annual Power Supply Adjustment fee increase of $15, that extra $9 will be about the cost of a 13th electric bill each year, a blow Council will attempt to soften by expanding AE's Customer Assistance Program for low-income ratepayers.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Energy, Fayette Power Project, City Council

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