Austin Energy has unveiled its aggressive push for renewable energy investment – but at what cost?

Austin Energy recently told the Austin City Council that it will be unable to keep costs low and deliver significantly more renewable energy, according to an article in the Austin-American Statesman. The statement went on to say that Austin Energy will likely need to collect 35 percent more revenue by 2020 to cover its rising expenses.

The current plan, up for approval tomorrow by the City Council, allows Austin Energy to invest heavily in energy-efficiency measures and get 35 percent of the city’s electricity from renewable resources by the end of the decade, up from 11 percent now. The report does not address how much electric rates must rise as a result.

According to our report, Energy Efficiency: Is Texas Getting Its Money’s Worth?, today’s government mandated energy efficiency programs are generally designed to decrease energy use by increasing the cost of energy. The benefits of Texas’ government-mandated energy efficiency program are highly speculative, and without a doubt very expensive.

Since 2002, Texas consumers have paid $591.1 million to support the state’s energy efficiency programs, with the cost estimate to reach $114.8 million in 2010.

Regardless of the final cost of Austin’s plan, it is bound to be high. And it could get higher; Austin’s plan in its current form has no limitations on costs. As building manager John Sutton explains in the article, “That is bad for Austin’s businesses and its residential customers.”

– Ryan Brannan