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Austin Energy to begin use of

Thursday, June 19, 2003 by

New tools to ease consumption

Reducing consumption would cut air pollution

The Resource Management Commission signed off this week on purchases for two Austin Energy efforts that are intended to reduce air pollution through energy conservation.

Those efforts mean more as Austin heads into the hot summer months and demand for energy is at its highest. The electric utility’s goal is to use new technology to cut down on peak electric demand and, hence, reduce consumption.

Austin Energy’s SmartVendor program, which is being underwritten by grants from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, is aimed at cold beverage machines. The utility has purchased more than 4,000 Vending Misers for use on soft drink machines. The Vending Misers will be installed on vending machines in local governments, school districts and businesses participating in the SmartVendor program.

Vending Miser, created by Bayview Technology Group of Colorado, uses a passive infrared motion detector to determine when a machine is in use. When the motion detector determines an area is vacant, it turns off the lights, fans, motors and compressors on the machine until the area is occupied again. The technology reduces the vending machine’s energy usage by between 30 and 45 percent, depending on the machine’s location.

The SmartVendor program does not come cheap. According to the back-up material in the commission’s agenda, grants for the program from the Public Utilities Commission total just under $1 million. That $1 million includes an initial $200,000 grant, plus another $425,000 grant and two one-year extensions at $175,000 per year. A grant for the installation of the technology under a similar time frame was $123,395.

Austin Energy should complete the SmartVendor program by December. All told, the program is expected to save an additional 3.3 kilowatts of energy, enough to power 330 average homes in Austin. The reduction in energy also is expected to remove 2,900 tons of carbon dioxide from the air, equivalent to planting 100,000 trees in Austin parks.

The second Austin Energy program is the Cycle Saver Load Management Program. The program purchases water heater timers to reduce energy demand during peak hours through an electronic device attached to the water heaters in apartment complexes.

The Resource Management Commission recommended the purchase of an additional 1,300 water heater timers. The timers turn the water heaters off during peak electric demand times, which are June through September, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Apartment residents are given a once-a-year $25 credit for participating in the Austin Energy program.

The total cost of the units is $309,750, which is based on an initial $103,250, plus an option to extend for two one-year extensions. According to information provided by the utility, the project saves an estimated total of 750 kilowatts during peak demand, at a cost of $313 per kilowatt saved. Those savings are enough to power 11 average homes and remove 83 tons of carbon dioxide from Austin’s air.

Hays, Austin officials meet To discuss regional process

Stakeholders will have input, but no vote Members of the Austin environmental community came together with elected officials from Hays County and area cities as well as property owners Tuesday in a meeting described as the first step in a long process designed to boost water quality protection measures, particularly in the Barton Springs zone of the Edwards Aquifer. Organizers of the event laid out their plans for their next meeting and fielded questions about their goals and the anticipated level of citizen participation.

It proved to be a standing room-only crowd in the one-room meeting facility at Dripping Springs’ City Hall, located at the end of a gravel road just off Highway 290. While goats grazed in a field outside, representatives of several different organizations and governmental groups agreed on the need to keep Barton Springs safe. “I’m so excited about what you all are doing,” said Robin Rather with Austin’s Liveable City. “We’re sending you our absolute support and encouragement.” But Rather also raised an issue that several other citizens at the meeting brought forward. “I do have a very specific concern, and that has to do with the stakeholders’ group and whether or not it’s actually empowered to give anything other than feedback.”

The current outline for the regional planning process calls for a core committee composed of governmental representatives from the City of Austin, Hays County, Travis County, Dripping Springs, Buda, Sunset Valley, Bee Caves, the Hays-Trinity Groundwater District and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. The first meeting of that core committee is tentatively set for July 9. Citizen input would come through a much broader stakeholders committee, but a five-member executive committee with only governmental representation would make all financial decisions. Council Member Daryl Slusher, a major force behind the process, told In Fact Daily the executive committee would “approve expenditures by majority vote and keep the process on track and moving.” He said Austin, Dripping Springs, Hays and Travis Counties and one of the water districts would be on the executive committee. A larger group might make the process unwieldy, he said.

Citizen activist Terry Tull, who moderated the discussion, told the audience that community participation would be essential. “This is not an exclusionary process, this is inclusionary,” he said. “We want to get all the right people at the table at the right time. If this is going to work, we have to have a process that the people accept that’s run by someone we trust . . . that doesn’t get run to some hidden agenda or some personal interest, one that’s very open and, at the end of the day, respects the jurisdictions that have to actually implement the rules that come out of it.” Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell agreed that public input would be a high priority for the group. “The government is the people, and we want them to be included in this process,” he said. “We’re committed to that. That’s why we set it up the way we did, with the stakeholders driving the concept of the plan.”

Representatives of several organizations, including Envision Central Texas, offered to share the technical data they had gathered with the group as the process advanced. The firm of Fregonese Calthorpe is working with Envision Central Texas and will likely be chosen on July 9 to do the first phase of the process. The official designation has not yet occurred, as erroneously reported elsewhere. Slusher said the first phase would be to “assess the information that’s available, talk to a wide range of stakeholders and talk to members of the group, and then (the consultant) would talk about what would need to take place in a second phase in order to meet our goals.” However, the executive committee could in the future choose a separate consulting firm for additional work on the regional plan itself.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday .

©2003 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Musical desks . . . The move-athon has not stopped yet at City Hall. In addition to the furniture movement into and out of the mayoral suite and Place 5 Council Member Brewster McCracken’s office, the furniture in Council Member Daryl Slusher’s office has also changed. Since Mayor Will Wynn chose to take the traditional spot of the Mayor in the largest office, he wanted a large desk to match. So Kirk Watson’s old desk has come out of storage. Mayor Gus Garcia’s smaller desk would have shifted into storage, but Slusher’s office claimed it. Kay Guedea, an assistant to City Manager Toby Futrell who has been through many changes of administration, said of Slusher, “He’s had nothing but junk since he came here,” in 1996, “because he’s focused on more important things.” Slusher was the only Council member in his office late yesterday. Slusher, the Mayor and several other Council members attended the funeral of Jessie Lee Owens, who died while trying to escape from police on Saturday, earlier in the day. . . Green by Design . . . Austin Energy’s popular seminar on Green Building techniques is set for Saturday afternoon—not a popular time to spend indoors. So the normally well-attended seminar has several openings. The seminar covers energy saving techniques for both new and existing homes, water-wise landscaping and tips on how to design a home for a specific lot. For more information, call 505-3700. The workshop is part of the National Solar Energy Conference, the 32nd annual meeting of the American Solar Energy Society meeting at the Austin Convention Center. The conference runs Saturday through Thursday . . . No City Council meeting this week. The Council will not have a regular meeting until July 17 . . . LCRA news . . . Lower Colorado River Authority scientists have found an outbreak of hydrilla on Lake Bastrop. This is the first time the problem has occurred in a number of years and for no known reason, LCRA General Manager Joe Beal told his board yesterday. He added that another 1,200 neutered grass carp were dropped in Lake Austin on Friday to counter its hydrilla problem. The release appears to be doing some good to combat the noxious vegetation . . . Resident protests have stopped the LCRA from starting its work to create a park on the shores of Lake Buchanan. The LCRA had agreed to return to the drawing board if protests over plans for East Buchanan Park were significant, and they were . . . The LCRA board has agreed to sell 16 acres of land on Inks Lake in Llano County. The sale, part of the LCRA’s business plan, is intended to resolve some encroachments on LCRA land. Owners of the adjoining 27 properties in Inks Lake Village Section One will be given a chance to buy the land, which is valued at $10,000 per acre . . . A new Emergency Operations Center/General Office Complex was approved by the LCRA board of directors on consent yesterday. The West Campus will reuse space the LCRA already is leasing from the city as part of the Tom Miller Dam, between Lake Austin Boulevard and Lake Austin, north of Red Bud Trail. The project, which will be paid for over three years, should be completed by 2005 and cost the LCRA $10 million . . . Reactions unsurprising . . . Democrats and Republicans are reacting unsurprisingly to Gov. Rick Perry’ s call for a special session on redistricting. The Republican Party’s Spin Cycle update yesterday was headlined: “Governor Perry shows courageous leadership by calling special session on congressional redistricting.” Democratic Congressman Martin Frost, on the other hand, released a statement beginning with the statement, “Rick Perry is spending $1.7 million Texas tax-dollars to become the most overtly partisan Governor in Texas history.” If the map has not changed since last month, Austin Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s district would be divided into four others, none of which would be able to elect a representative on its own. His office released this statement yesterday: “In his relentless attempt to divide our community, Tom DeLay is actually uniting the many who oppose his extremist agenda. We all have a stake in who casts our vote in Congress on the vital issues effecting our families’ health, safety, and economic security”. . . Juneteenth fest . . . Travis County’s 14th annual Juneteenth celebration is today. The lunchtime event, held at Wooldridge Park across from the County Courthouse, is expected to draw more than 500 people.

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