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Austin Energy seeks input on how to meet future power needs

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Austin Energy has announced an eight-month program to gain public input on its options for future power generation. Mayor Will Wynn and Austin Energy General Manager Roger Duncan unveiled the “Austin Smart Energy” Public Participation Process Tuesday, whcih will include a series of public meetings over the next six months.


The meetings will be used to gather input for both the general public and a number of organizations to help determine the city’s mix of power generation sources. As part of the city’s Climate Protection Plan, Austin Energy is proposing to shift its power generation to at least 30 percent renewable resources by 2020.


“Our Climate Protection Plan has a singular role in solving a much bigger problem, global warming,” said Wynn. “I believe the next president, whoever that may be, will be helping with legislation to deal with the problem. We are dedicated to significantly reducing our carbon emissions here in Austin.”


He said the fact that Austin owns its electric utility gives it an advantage in dealing with carbon emissions, noting that Texas releases the most pollutants of any state in the union.


Austin Energy’s draft plan, in addition to its goal for renewables, calls for 1,000 megawatts of new generation by 2020; offsetting 700 MW of peak demand through energy efficiency and load shifting programs; capping greenhouse gas emissions; and taking steps to become one of the nation’s first carbon neutral electric utilities.


“We need input from the community to help us decide how to meet our future electicity needs and our environmental goals,” said Duncan. “We will present our draft generation plan during five community-wide town hall meetings.”


Duncan said the meetings and the public participation process will be supported by a resource guide that will provide pros and cons on a range of generation options. The city has hired consultants John Hall and Fox Smollen to assist with the process.


“Part of the public participation process will involve meetings between Austin Energy consultants and representatives of a variety of customer groups,” Duncan said. “Those groups will include large industrial customers, Chambers of Commerce, neighborhood associations, city councils representing customers living outside the City of Austin, community service organizations and environmental groups.”


Following the October and November meetings, Austin Energy will coordinate directly with customer groups to set up a second round of town hall type meetings. The second group of meetings, along with additional community-wide town hall meetings, will occur early next year.


In addition, Duncan said, the “Austin Smart Energy” Public Participation Process will have a dedicated web site to provide public meeting schedules, summaries of discussions from each meeting including questions asked and answers given. The site will include a blog so that Austin Energy customers can voice opinions or send questions at any time. The web site will go live in early October.


The first round of public participation town hall meetings will be:


  • Oct. 22, Austin City Hall, Council Chambers;
  • Oct. 28, Sunset Valley City Hall, 3205 Jones Rd.;
  • Nov. 6, University Hills Library, 4721 Loyola Ln.;
  • Nov. 12, Travis County Service Center, 4501 FM 620 N.;
  • Nov. 19, Metz Recreation Center, 2407 Canterbury St.


All meetings are set for 6:30pm.


Austin Energy expects to send final recommendations on the proposed generation plan to City Council by early summer, 2009.

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