Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas


All About Austin Energy


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

This Dam Holds in Lady Bird Lake, So When Will It Get ‘Essential’ Repairs?

The poor condition of the dam that holds in the waters of Austin’s beloved Lady Bird Lake continues to vex city officials.  Emails obtained in a public information request reveal challenges the city faced in performing maintenance on Longhorn Dam, which crosses the Colorado River beneath Pleasant Valley Road. Documents tell of water lost through the […]

What Spain Can Teach Texas About Solar Energy

About an hour’s drive outside of Sevilla, Spain’s old city, past grazing black-footed pigs and olive orchards, sits the Abengoa Solucar complex, and it’s truly a sight: Imagine cresting a hill and then all of the sudden seeing several large towers, over 500 feet high, with hundreds of beams of light striking them — solar […]

Price of Wind Energy Goes Down in Texas

You thought you might never hear it, but wind power is becoming a formidable price competitor with fossil fuels in Texas, and Austin’s public utility is revamping its programs to suit. In the year 2000, Austin Energy unrolled a program giving consumers the option to fund wind energy development and the city became a recognized […]

As Renewable Energy Grows, Wind and Solar Pull Ahead of Hydropower

Wind and solar energy now routinely surpasses hydroelectric generation as an energy source in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. (but, not surprisingly, not in Texas). The state’s online Window on State Government calls it “a tiny portion of the […]

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 […]

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