Sponsored Post – from Public Citizen Texas
This editorial was written by Kaiba White, Energy Policy and Outreach Specialist at Public Citizen Texas
Earlier this month, Austinites took time out of their day to show up at City Hall and let the Austin City Council know that we expect real leadership when it comes to adopting an updated Austin Energy Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan. Many joined us in a call for carbon-free by 2030, and 75 percent renewable energy by 2027 goals. The other common theme we are supporting is the need for additional programs to make the benefits of distributed solar accessible to low-income residents, renters, and those in multifamily housing.
This process started last November with the creation of the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group (which was partially appointed by Austin Energy). But after months of meetings, the working group recommendations (which have been endorsed by Austin Energy) fall well short of leadership on either climate protection or energy equity. The recommendations call for only 65 percent renewable energy by 2027, limited or no increases for energy efficiency, local solar and energy storage goals, and no solid commitments to improve access to distributed solar.
Thankfully, the Austin City Council is the board of directors for Austin Energy, so we all get a chance to weigh in with our elected officials to call for a plan that represents Austin values – doing right by our planet and our neighbors
At least 32 U.S. cities have committed to a 100 percent renewable energy goal and 5 have already achieved this goal. If Austin is to claim leadership on combating climate change, a commitment to 100 percent carbon-free energy is needed. This, of course, implies that all of Austin Energy’s fossil fuel generators would need to be retired. That would include the natural gas-fired power plants at Decker Creek and Sand Hill, both located on the east side of Austin. This would improve air quality in the city and end our utility’s contribution to fracking, which is responsible for groundwater contamination, air pollution (including methane – a powerful greenhouse gas), earthquakes and destroyed roads in Texas and other states. With all of these harmful side effects of energy production, it is those with the fewest options and opportunities – those with the least among us – who are hardest hit. It’s on all of us – as Austinites – to stop contributing to these negative outcomes as quickly as possible.
As we transition to clean energy, we can and should ensure that the benefits flow to everyone in our community. As the price of solar energy has increased, more residents and businesses are going solar to reduce their bills and their impact on the environment. There is now financing available for those who can’t pay upfront, making solar accessible to middle-income residents. That’s good news, but solar has still been out of reach for those with poor credit, renters and those living in multifamily housing (either apartments or condominiums). Making solar accessible for these populations is challenging, but utilities, governments and non-profits around the country are digging in to find solutions. San Antonio’s CPS Energy already has a successful solar program, called Solar Host, which is accessible to low-income residents. What we want is for Austin Energy to take on these challenges and embrace new solutions. Local solar goals should be expanded and incentive budgets maintained to make solar an option for Austinites at all income levels and in all types of housing.
Goals are only useful if they are high enough to spur innovation and action beyond what is already happening. We want Austin to be ambitious in taking on climate change and equity.
Here’s what we’re asking for (3rd column):
Please note – editorials are written by guest writers to inform and educate the community on a variety of different viewpoints. However, they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Austin EcoNetwork.