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Where is the renewable energy study?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

In August 2017, City Council passed Resolution 61, which requires Austin Energy to push to have 65 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2027. This resolution contained an amendment by Council Member Leslie Pool that gave Austin Energy a parallel goal to create models that would show what 75 and 80 percent renewable energy by 2027 would require and what achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 would look like. These studies are on the calendar to be finished by September 2019. So far, none of the studies have commenced.

In response to the slow start, members of 350 Austin showed up to the April 16 Electric Utility Commission meeting to remind the commissioners that there was no reason to wait to start the study. Beki Halpin, an Austin resident, also came to the commission to say that “Having a well-thought-out study means we would need to start now.” She came bearing a goodie bag full of symbolic gifts. When Commissioner Stefan Wray asked hopefully if it was snacks, she had to disappoint him to explain that each gift was a physical object to represent the complexity of the situation. “That’s what your gift represents. (The situation) is not naughty, but k-n-o-t-t-y.”

Travis Duncan, a mayoral candidate for the 2018 election, also arrived to show his support for beginning the study now – his platform focuses on providing access to free, equitable energy for all Austinites. When looking through Austin Energy’s budget, he found there was $189 million spent toward the Fayette coal plant. “Why are we investing a single penny in that plant given that we’re going to close it in the near future,” he said. Instead, he suggested repurposing the funds to alleviate some of the financial risk associated with building more solar plants in the city to provide energy locally. “I don’t think we necessarily need a study to know what we need to do,” he said.

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