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Demand for electricity continues to set new records due to hot weather

Tuesday, June 6, 2000 by

Austin Energy officials say utility will be able to meet summer's demand

Hot weather's good for business–if you run an electric utility. The city-owned Austin Energy has set another record for peak demand, this time for the month of May. Austin Energy General Manager Chuck Manning said last night that peak demand hit 2029 megawatts (MW) last month, erasing the previous May record of 1774 MW set in May 1998. "We've had monthly all-time peaks every month this year except February," Manning said.

But not to worry, said Andy Ramirez, vice president of power production. He presented Austin Energy's forecasted peak for this year as 2537 MW, a figure that includes consideration of the city's conservation goals and a built-in reserve of 15 percent. That's just shy of the city's current generating capacity of 2589 MW.

In addition, eight new power plants are scheduled to be in service by July 1 within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), for a total of 5180 MW. (See chart below.) "We may as other units come on line be able to call upon some of that," Ramirez said.

Unlike many of the state's electric utilities, Austin Energy has no large customers who subscribe to interruptible power in exchange for a lower electric rate. Manning said a tariff exists for interruptible power but no one has opted for it due to the potential impacts on production.

Austin Energy has a new peaking power plant scheduled to come on line in June 2001. As reported by In Fact Daily March 30, 2000, Enron Sandhill LLC, a subsidiary of Enron North America, will build the 180 MW plant consisting of four gas turbines of 45 MW each, built by General Electric. The $93.7 million project cost the city $86 million. The city will get 80 MW per year for three years and own the plant's full capacity in time for the summer of 2004. The new peaking plant will be installed on land owned by the city, the site of the South Austin Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant on Fallwell Lane east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

While generation capacity must be in place to meet demand, so must the transmission lines that carry high voltage from power plants to the city's distribution system for delivery to customers. "You can have all the generation in the world but you've got to have transmission to get it to market," Manning told the Electric Utility Commission members.

The commission voted last night to recommend approval of a transmission project at a cost of $9.4 million. This will pay for reconstruction of 55 miles of an existing 345 kilovolt transmission line that connects the Austrop substation to the Fayette Power Plant. The work will be performed by Red Simpson Inc. of Alexandria, La. Manning said the city will be reimbursed for the capital cost of this transmission project through transmission rates.

The commission also voted to recommend approval of a lease agreement with Jackson Properties Management Inc. for a 3.469 acre tract on Highway 95 in Bastrop for storage of poles, insulators, transformers and other materials and equipment for the same transmission project. The 12-month lease agreement would be effective July 1 will cost $63,852, and carries the option to renew for an additional two years. The site was previously owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

New Generation for Texas This Summer




Capacity CPS


May 1, 2000

539 megawatts



May 1, 2000

510 megawatts


San Patricio

May 30, 2000

450 megawatts



June 1, 2000

1000 megawatts



June 1, 2000

306 megawatts



June 1, 2000

545 megawatts



June 1, 2000

830 megawatts



July 1, 2000

1000 megawatts


5180 megawatts

Source: ERCOT Independent System Operator

Austin Energy to pilot new program to cut parking needs

Goal to reduce demand by 75 vehicles

While the State of Texas has built many new parking garages and the City of Austin will be doing so as well to accommodate the needs in the new City Hall, a new pilot program is going to be kicked off soon to reduce the need for parking. Austin Energy will be the first department to participate, General Manager Chuck Manning told the members of the Electric Utility Commission last night.

Manning said Austin Energy has 550 employees working out of Town Lake Center on Barton Springs Road and 359 parking spaces in the adjacent parking garage. The goal will be to reduce demand by 75 vehicles through a combination of telecommuting, encouraging use of public transportation, and changing the work hours for certain employees. Some employees may work four, 10-hour days instead of the usual eight hours, five days a week. Others may work nine successive nine-hour days and get the 10th day off, Manning said. A $50 incentive will be paid to employees who leave their cars at home and the city will pay the full bus fares to commute via Capital Metro.

Manning tells In Fact Daily that Austin Energy has the greatest need for this sort of program because some 1,700 parking spaces will be eliminated across the street when Palmer Auditorium is retrofitted to become the Long Performing Arts Center and the surrounding property is converted into park land.

Protest time… Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) has scheduled an effort for 9 a.m. today at Travis County Commissioners Court, in hopes of getting commissioners to adopt a resolution opposing Alcoa's plans to strip mine in Bastrop and Lee counties and calling on the company to switch to a cleaner-burning fuel to improve air quality in Travis County. Alcoa plans to strip mine 15,000 acres for lignite to power smelter operations in Rockdale. For more info call Robin Schneider at TCE at 326-5655… Planning Commission moved…The city's Planning Commission will now meet at One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, Room 335, beginning tonight. For more info call Nikki Hoelter at 499-2782 or Patty Gonzales at 499-2395… Moore moving on…At last night's meeting of the city's Electric Utility Commission, Austin Energy's general manager, Chuck Manning, said that John Moore, former director of Austin's electric utility department, is resigning his position with the Lower Colorado River Authority effective June 13 to become general manager of Grande Communications, a broadband communications company. Moore did not return a phone call last night to comment on the report. Moore retired from his city job Nov. 25, 1997, and started work Dec. 1, 1997, as manager of business development for the LCRA's Tensco division. The Austin American-Statesman reported on May 22 that Grande, an Austin-based startup, received $232 million in first-round funding, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Grande Communications and Denver-based Western Integrated Networks both have announced plans to build a broadband network in Austin and both have been granted franchises by the City of Austin, according to a Statesman report of May 11. A third firm that had announced such plans, WideOpenWest, pulled out in the face of the competition… Customers choosing green power… Chuck Manning, general manager of Austin Energy, said last night that 1750 residential and 14 large customers have signed up for the city's latest renewable energy program, GreenChoice. The total enrollment adds up to 47 million kilowatt-hours of power, he said. The utility has already sent mail pieces to 15,000 people on lists supplied by local environmental groups, Manning says, and another batch of 15,000 will be mailed soon. As reported by In Fact Daily Jan. 13, 2000, Austin Energy has purchased 40 megawatts of renewable energy for the GreenChoice program. The power will be supplied by windmills and landfill gas projects. The 14 large users signed on are IBM, 3M, State Farm Insurance, Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Fisher-Rosemount, Solectron, Habitat Suites, Hyatt, Four Season's Hotel Austin, AMD, Heart Hospital of Austin, LaQuinta, the Governor's Mansion, and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. For more info, visit the web site at or call 499-7827… New power saver… Austin Energy plans to roll out a new program soon that may help put power hungry air-conditioners on a diet. The Aeroseal Duct Sealing Program will be offered with a $200 rebate, says Austin Energy General Manager Chuck Manning, who adds that he has already signed up himself. The program works much like a spray can of fix-a-flat on your automobile tire. Ducts are sealed where they would blow into a room and an adhesive material is sprayed into the duct from the end where cold air is normally fed into the duct. The adhesive tries to escape anywhere there's a leak and forms a patch that seals the hole. "It looks very promising," Manning says of the results. He estimates that the cost would run from $200 to $600 to seal the ducts in a residence… Interim communication solution…This Thursday, June 8, the City Council will consider amending a contract with Nextel Communications of Austin to add from $125,000 to $700,000 a year. This will provide an interim solution for two-way radio communication for some city departments, pending a review of other communication options, including cellular, paging, radio and data. The Nextel equipment combines a radio, pager and cell phone in a single instrument. A total of 247 Nextel units are in service within five departments now and another 52 are expected to be needed in the next 24 months. The Electric Utility Commission last night voted to recommend approval for Austin Energy. The equipment is also used by the Office of Emergency Management, Austin Fire Department, Aviation Department, and Solid Waste Services Department.

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