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Austin Energy adds new language to gap study

Thursday, February 5, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

In a move that could influence the city’s future energy portfolio, Austin Energy has added energy efficiency, water quality and emissions analysis to the scope of work for an upcoming gap study.

The utility posted a revised request for proposal Wednesday soliciting applications from consultant firms to review the costs and benefits of constructing a 500 megawatt combined-cycle gas plant, along with up to four alternative scenarios.

“The (scope of work) has been amended to include the elements of energy efficiency, water quality impacts and emissions impacts,” wrote Austin Energy staff in an addendum to the revised document. “Hedging, which is not a cost element of the generation plan and is governed by separate policy, has not been included.”

The addendum also states that “other elements such as the period of analysis, cost elements, assumptions and inputs will remain consistent with the approved generation plan.”

The independent study is part of the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 that City Council adopted in December. The results will likely influence Council’s decision on whether to fill the plan’s generation gap by constructing the gas plant that Austin Energy has proposed or pursuing renewable alternatives.

Austin Energy staff made the changes in response to the Electric Utility Commission’s request that the document cover “energy efficiency; full fuel costs including hedging, operations and maintenance, fuel and financing; power purchases; environmental impacts and impacts on Austin’s ability to meet climate change and affordability goals; analysis over the period of the longest expected generation asset; and resultant water use and impacts on water quality.”

Though Austin Energy did not include all of the EUC’s requested language, changes are evident throughout the new document.

For example, the phrase “energy efficiency” is now a factor in the scope of work for analyzing alternative scenarios to the gas plant, which will consist of “reasonable combinations of large-scale and distributed storage, renewables, demand response, energy efficiency and purchased power in lieu of investing in a new natural gas plant.”

In addition, the scope of work for analyzing “other benefits and impacts associated with the alternatives” now includes “any expected water quality impacts” and “carbon dioxide and any other Greenhouse Gas emissions that contribute to climate change.”

The generation plan includes goals to retire the Decker Creek Power Station’s steam units, begin retiring Austin Energy’s share in the coal-powered Fayette Power Project, and invest in local storage, demand response and wind and solar technologies.

The deadline for consultant firms to respond to the request for proposal is Feb. 27.

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