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AE responds to task force recommendations

Monday, August 25, 2014 by Tyler Whitson

Austin Energy has responded to the Austin Generation Resource Planning Task Force’s wish list of carbon emission goals, calling it “not workable” if the utility is to meet City Council’s yearly affordability targets.

Austin Energy Deputy General Manager Cheryl Mele made the statement in a memo released Friday, alongside Austin Energy’s preliminary response to the task force’s July report. Austin Energy will provide more analysis to Council as part of this fall’s update to its Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan to 2020.

In its report, the task force outlines 19 energy sustainability recommendations that members believe are “achievable, affordable and effective.”

In an interview with the Austin Monitor on Sunday, Mele elaborated on Austin Energy’s response to these recommendations. “These are good ideas, these are very aspirational types of visionary ideas,” she said. “But they really do need to be costed out and looked at from that perspective as well.”

Task force member Clay Butler responded to Austin Energy’s preliminary statement. “It’s great to see that they agreed with most of the recommendations that were neutral, and the ones they disagreed on for the most part were more general in nature,” he said. “It’s also good to see that they reconfirmed the affordability goals, just like the task force.”

Austin Energy’s initial response acknowledges that, though the task force’s recommendations are “appropriately tempered by their recognition of the Council’s affordability goals,” it would not likely meet those goals if adopted as a whole.

Mele noted that Austin Energy will be incorporating some of the task force’s ideas into a study of eight broad scenarios and 30 base plans it is conducting this summer. “Our next step is to look at new ideas that were introduced by the task force and bring back a full report to Council that analyzes the benefits and costs of those recommendations and other ideas.”

Mele said in her memo that there are three general ideas in the recommendations that Austin Energy is concerned about. These are the report’s adoption of “arbitrary numerical goals,” recommendations on how to handle wholesale energy market conditions, and the proposal for an accelerated timeline for shutting down the Fayette Project and Decker Creek Power Station.

Mele elaborated Sunday on Austin Energy’s concern about setting these numerical goals. “I think that if we can maintain flexibility and set our high level goals, we’re going to get much better results over the long term,” she said. “Locking into hard target dates and hard percentages is not the best way to manage the overall costs and portfolio.”

To read the entire task force report, click here.

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