Austin Energy should embrace big change

We have an opportunity to think big on climate.

Austin Energy should embrace big change
Cary Capece, founder of Make Austin Clean, paints over graffiti on a utility pole at S. 5th & Barton Skyway. 

Tonight at a meeting of the Electric Utility Commission, Austin Energy leaders will present the results of an 18-month study examining the feasibility and cost of phasing out natural gas generation.

The study is one of the reasons that members of EUC believe the city must update the Austin Energy 2030 Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan. A resolution that members of the EUC unanimously approved in November noted a number of conditions that had changed in the previous tw0-and-a-half years that justified an update:

  • The price of natural gas had nearly quadrupled
  • AE has been unable to retire its share of the Fayette Coal Plant
  • The Winter Storm Uri disaster
  • Regulatory changes by the Public Utility Commission and the State Legislature
  • The passage of the federal infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which may offer opportunities for federal funding for renewable energy projects or grid modernization (A couple examples)

The price of natural gas has since tumbled back to 2020 levels, but all of the other stuff still applies. And we've since had another major power outage that has prompted a conversation about burying utility lines and the legislature recently passed a law aimed at encouraging fossil fuels over renewable energy.

And yet, it seems like there is likely to be some friction between some of the EUC and utility leaders over how big of a deal this update should be.