- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Austin City Council next month faces a vote on a large utility-scale solar contract to use more renewable resources and balance the increased cost to customers.

City-owned Austin Energy argues for acquiring the additional solar energy in pieces over a 10-year period, to spread out the cost, the Austin American-Statesman (https://atxne.ws/1KUdw0s ) reported Thursday.

Council members in December approved a renewable resources plan that calls for purchasing 600 megawatts of solar power by 2017 “if available and affordable.” That’s nearly triple the amount currently in Austin Energy’s solar portfolio and enough to power 56,000 homes.

The utility recommends Austin buy 200 to 300 megawatts of solar power this year from a West Texas solar farm developer. That agreement could cost up to $33 million annually for a period between 15 to 25 years, funded through a fuel charge on customer bills.

“What you’re really making a policy decision on isn’t how much (power), it’s how much risk,” Larry Weis, Austin Energy general manager, told an Austin City Council committee. He said the utility was not opposed to buying 600 megawatts for solar, but “our sensitivity is how does it impact ratepayers?”

The Coalition for Clean Affordable Reliable Energy, representing some big power users in Austin, lobbied against the full 600 megawatts now out of concern for how much bills could increase.

Austin Energy projects the typical residential ratepayer could pay an additional $3 to $7 a year for that first 200 to 300 megawatts of solar power. For the full 600 megawatts, a typical residential ratepayer would pay $15 to $19 extra each year. For businesses, the impact could be tens of thousands of dollars annually.

The purchase agreement is on the Oct. 1 agenda.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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