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Power lines tower over an intersection in downtown Austin. Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News.

All About Austin Energy

Background

Austin Energy is a public utility company in Texas with more than 400,000 customers in Austin and parts of Travis and Williamson Counties, providing service to nearly 1 million people. The company is publicly owned and returns annual dividends to the City of Austin that amount to about 25 percent of the general fund. Austin Energy uses nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources to generate power. It also boasts the largest green building program in the country and offers a solar rebate program to incentivize customers to install solar panels in homes and businesses.

Austin Energy has been criticized for raising customer costs in order to meet its renewable energy goals. Some critics have even called the utility a monopoly. Like many municipalities in Texas, the City of Austin does not allow residents to choose another power company that may offer lower rates. The Texas legislature considered a bill in the 2011 session that would have deregulated electricity in Austin, though the bill did not go up for a vote. Retractors of the bill noted that it only targeted Austin and not other cities in Texas with similar utility programs.

Austin Energy is considering changing its rates permanently in 2012. Representatives said the change will accommodate the rising costs of materials and employee salaries.

Austin Energy also faced controversy in early 2011, when many homes and businesses in the Austin area lost power during February’s rolling blackouts that left nearly a million Texans in the dark. The blackouts occurred during the coldest week of the year when record numbers of customers were heating their homes. Austin Energy and Austin’s City Council are looking into the matter.

Latest Posts

El Paso May Become the First Texas City to Go Coal Free

El Paso’s public utility announced plans to run the city coal-free in two years. It’s a bold proposal since no major U.S. city can run without coal power yet, but it seems possible, and it puts El Paso ahead among Texas cities that have sought to end their dependence on coal. The announcement mirrors an [...]

Largest Single Solar Plant in the State Planned for West Texas

From KRTS Marfa Public Radio: A California company has won a contract to build a 150-megawatt solar plant in West Texas. It would be the largest single plant built in the state so far, second only to the 400 mw system of plants planned for San Antonio. San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy isn’t saying where exactly it will build the plant. CEO [...]

Austin’s Energy Mix Just Got Much Sunnier

From KUT News:  Austin Energy will soon be getting more of its power from the sun. The city-owned electric utility has signed a deal, announced today, with a San Francisco-based firm to build the single-largest solar facility in Texas by 2016. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, Recurrent Energy will build a 150-megawatt solar farm in [...]

Meet the Answer to Texas’ AC Problem: Demand Response

For years, Texas has struggled with how to solve its energy crunch: forecasts said not enough power plants were being built to meet the demands of a growing population and a booming state. But it turns out the state’s supplies are likely adequate. Despite all the growth in Texas, peak power demand hasn’t increased as [...]

How One Austin Church Could Lead to More Urban Solar Power

The promise of harnessing the power of the sun and turning it into renewable energy has attracted countless businesses, governments and environmental groups. But it might be a church here in Austin that ends up bringing one of the next breakthroughs in solar technology. To understand the scope of this project, it helps to know [...]

Near-Catastrophe During Flooding Highlights Issues at Dam in Austin

A lot of people who walk or drive past Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin probably assume it’s a natural feature. They appreciate the trails and parks that line the lake’s 416 acres, unaware of the series of floodgates on the Longhorn Dam that hold its waters in. But recent flooding along the waterway has [...]

How Austin Lost Two Flood Gauges When It Needed Them Most

Early on the morning of October 31st, as waters rose to historic levels in Onion Creek, two of the flood gauges that officials rely on to monitor water levels weren’t working. The flooding heavily damaged more than 600 homes and killed five. One gauge was completely submerged by water, damaging the equipment, which isn’t waterproof. But [...]

Utilities Across Texas Warn of Scams

Sometimes it’s a knock on the door, with someone telling you they need to check your electrical wiring. Perhaps you’ve gotten a phone call threatening to cut off your power if you don’t pay your electric bill immediately over the phone by credit card or within a half hour by wire transfer. Or maybe it’s someone [...]

Powered by the Sun, But Off to a Slow Start

It’s a sweltering Texas summer day in late June, and here at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 race track in Austin, the stands are empty. Just last fall, they were filled with fans witnessing the deafening roar of cars going upward of 200 miles an hour. But if you were to listen closely [...]

Why a Truly ‘Green’ Car Race Might Not Be Possible for Formula One

A Red Bull Racing car wins the Korean Formula One Grand Prix in October.

Three model cars sit side-by-side on the windowsill of Zach Baumer’s office in East Austin, memories of a childhood spent with his family at Indy 500 races. “Growing up in Indianapolis, I just have sort of a thing for cars,” he says. “Not that I think we should be driving single occupancy vehicles! But … [...]

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