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Council picks consultant for energy gap study

Friday, June 26, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

In an unusual turn of events, City Council selected a company on Thursday that did not score the most points with Austin Energy staff to conduct an upcoming independent energy gap study.

Council voted 7-3 to award the contract to Navigant Consulting, with Council members Sheri Gallo, Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman dissenting and Council Member Ora Houston absent.

According to an evaluation that Austin Energy staff conducted, Navigant was the second-most qualified candidate, having received 84.88 out of 100 points. In making its selection, Council passed over Pace Global, which came in first place with 86.05 points.

The Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee, which consists of the full Council, voted earlier Thursday on Mayor Steve Adler’s motion to recommend that Council hire Navigant. That motion failed, with five committee members voting in favor, three dissenting, one abstaining and two absent.

Adler explained why he made the motion. “It appears as if Navigant has greater local ties than exist with the others,” he said. “Some of the stakeholder groups that were instrumental in arguing and advocating for the third-party consideration seemed to have a preference, and Navigant seems to be that preference.”

The independent gap study is part of the Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2025 that Council adopted last year after an extensive stakeholder process.

Zimmerman explained why he voted against the motion. “I haven’t heard a reason to not use Pace Global,” he said.

The previous Council, when discussing the generation plan, expressed a preference for the current Council to have the option to choose from the three candidates that Austin Energy staff rates most highly in the solicitation process.

Khalil Shalabi, Austin Energy’s vice president of energy market operations and resource planning, told Council on Tuesday that utility staff was “indifferent” as to which of the three consultants Council might select.

Navigant will take on the task of analyzing ways for the city to make up for the plan’s retirement of aging energy infrastructure, such as the Decker Creek Power Station. It will look at the viability of constructing a 500-megawatt, combined-cycle natural gas plant or various renewable alternatives.

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