Austin Energy shooting for 55% renewables by 2025

The Austin City Council Thursday updated an energy-generation plan for Austin Energy that will extend its national leadership in renewable power while giving a green light to a new, highly efficient natural gas-fired power plant.

The plan, dubbed 500+, limits rate increases to support the plan to 2 percent per year. Within that limit, the generation plan calls for the following:

  • The utility to produce 55 percent of its power with renewables by 2025. The current goal is 35 percent by 2020.
  • The development of 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar power, with additional local, “rooftop” solar. The publicly owned utility now has contracts for some 180 MWs of solar power and pays for another 20 MW of locally produced solar power.
  • An additional 450 MWs of wind power. The utility currently has nearly 1,000 MWs under contract.
  • A new 500 MW natural gas-fired power plant, which will facilitate ending the use of the utility’s coal-fired Fayette Power Project and the older, gas-fired Decker Power Plant. Use of the Fayette plant will be ramped down starting in 2020. Austin Energy will create a cash reserve fund for retirement of Austin’s share of the Fayette Power Project, targeted to retire Austin’s share of the plant beginning in 2022. The new plant will create much less carbon on a per/kilowatt hour basis than the older units.
  • New investments in energy efficiency and battery storage of power.
  • A “second opinion” from a consulting company that will test the assumptions and conclusions of the plan before major contracts are awarded.

“We’re pleased, after working with the Sierra Club and other stakeholders, that an affordable plan has emerged to enhance Austin’s national leadership in green power,” said Khalil Shalabi, vice president of energy market operations and resource planning for Austin Energy.

Austin Energy serves Austin, Travis County and parts of surrounding areas and is the nation’s eighth largest community-owed utility.

“Renewable technologies are emerging, the world is becoming more concerned about climate change and we believe this plan is a prudent step to keep Austin in the forefront of this wave,” Shalabi said.

Austin Energy already procures more wind and solar power than any other similar utility in the nation. The new plan would be consistent with the Clean Power Plan of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.