Tuesday, March 24, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

EUC pushes for generation plan’s solar component

The Electric Utility Commission passed a resolution Monday urging that City Council direct Austin Energy to issue a request for proposal for 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar energy by April 15.

“I feel like Austin Energy, in making their agreement to go forward with the generation plan as it was, owes the community the RFP,” said Chair Michael Osborne.

The Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 that Council passed in December “adopts and acts immediately on” issuing the request as part of its 55 percent renewable energy goal. So far, Austin Energy has not issued the request.

Vice Chair Karen Hadden, who put forward the resolution, pointed out that the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, which covers 30 percent of eligible solar projects, expires at the end of 2016 and only applies to projects that are in service before the cutoff. After that, the credit drops to 10 percent.

“I think it’s really important that we move forward and get the RFP out there so that we can take full advantage of those opportunities,” Hadden said, adding that she believes it is not too late to make the deadline. “We can still do that right now, and it concerns me that the RFP has not gone out yet.”

The resolution also recommends that Council wait until Austin Energy has issued the solar request and reviewed the resulting submissions before approving a consultant for the 500 megawatt energy gap study that is also part of the generation plan.

It adds that Council should direct the utility to use the most competitive solar price it receives through the request to determine the affordability of solar power in the gap study.

Council indicated that the independent gap study should compare Austin Energy’s proposed combined-cycle natural gas plant with renewable alternatives. Austin Energy released a request for proposals for a consultant to conduct the gap study earlier this year and has closed the submission window.

Five commissioners voted in favor of the resolution. Commissioner Brent Heidebrecht dissented and Commissioner Chris Herbert was absent.



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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin Energy: As a municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy is a rarity in the largely deregulated State of Texas. It's annual budget clocks in at over $1 billion. The utility's annual direct transfer of a Council-determined percentage of its revenues offers the city a notable revenue stream.

Electric Utility Commission: The advisory body charged with oversight of Austin Energy, the City of Austin's municipally-owned electric utility.

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