Austin Council Approves Affordable Solar Energy: Customers and the Environment Win

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Austin City Council voted today to approve an additional 100 to 150 megawatts of solar energy projects for Austin Energy for 2016 and directed Austin Energy to bring another 150 megawatts online by 2019.  Together with the projects approved on October 1, Council has given the go-ahead for between 400 and 450 megawatts of new solar energy to be completed by the end of 2016.



At prices reported around 3.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, these solar energy projects are some of the cheapest ever reported.  The prices will be fixed for contract periods of between 15 and 25 years.



“This is a huge win for Austin Energy customers and the environment.  It comes thanks to the dedicated efforts of many Austin residents and collaboration with our partners at the SEED Coalition, Climate Buddies, Texas Drought Project, Clean Water Action, the Faith Energy Action Team and many others,” said Kaiba White of Public Citizen.  “We no longer have to choose between clean energy and saving money.  I commend the Council for making this decision that will keep bills low for years to come.”



“When Warren Buffett received record-low solar prices, he proclaimed the victory to the world.  Austin Energy received bid that are just as competitive, making this a golden opportunity,” said Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition.  “Mayor Adler and the City Council have taken a financially sound path.”



Austin Energy’s solar purchases also represent a significant step toward achieving the climate protection goals adopted by the City Council, which include achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from the entire Austin community by no later than 2050 and eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions from Austin Energy controlled sources by 2030.  



 “400 megawatts of solar will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 620,000 metric tons, which is over 11% of all emissions from Austin Energy. That is significant,” ” said Joep Meijer of Climate Buddies. “Solar will also allow Austin Energy to use its expensive gas plants less, saving customers money and reduce local air pollution.”



 “Our best scientists are sounding dire warnings about the imminent possibility that climate change will accelerate in the next few years.  We need to do everything possible to head of the possibility of runaway climate change,” said Jere Lock of the Texas Drought Project.  “Action taken by City Council today are a step in the right direction.”



The increased use of solar energy will also protect and preserve Texas’s limited water resources.



"Austin's decision to go big on solar is great news for our state's water resources. Unlike solar, gas and coal plants require massive amounts of water to operate,” said David Foster of Clean Water Action. The extraction of natural gas through fracking has been proven to contaminate groundwater, and coal plants create millions of pounds of toxic coal ash each year, much of which finds its way into our water."

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