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Austin Energy, activists negotiate on plan

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Austin Energy is currently negotiating with renewable energy activists to reach agreement on a generation plan for the utility that will satisfy those who are seeking to reduce Austin’s carbon emissions as well as utility customers who worry about future price increases. Utility spokesman Robert Cullick told the Monitor on Tuesday, “I can confirm that we are intensely negotiating with the Sierra Club on a way to reduce our CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, keep our costs low and continue making progress on withdrawing from the Fayette Power Plant.” Cullick declined to give details on the negotiations, but utility officials believe it is important for Austin Energy to build new gas turbines to replace the old turbines at the Decker Creek power plant when the current plant is decommissioned. A citizen task force last summer produced a generation plan that would eliminate fossil fuel to the greatest extent possible from the utility’s portfolio, including natural gas, and add 600 MW of solar power. Cullick said, “We’re willing to look at our reliance on renewables and how fast we can increase that.” He added, “We’re looking at ways to continue to cut back carbon emissions significantly and also be leaders in things like local solar and battery storage and also industrial solar.” The bottom line, he said, is that whatever plan is adopted must be affordable. City Council has an Austin Energy committee meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Although the generation plan is on the agenda, it seems unlikely that the two sides will have concluded their negotiations by then. Dec. 11 is the final meeting for the current Council, and Council Member Mike Martinez is expected to propose adoption of the new generation plan at that time.

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