Changes to an Austin Energy program intended to help pay for wind power investments have drawn criticism from some industry experts who say the program no longer has a direct link to the city’s renewable energy goals.
Austin Energy launched GreenChoice in 2000, opening an opportunity for its customers to help support the company’s wind contracts, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1nkplgl ). They could enroll for 10-year contracts that tied their rate to what the utility was paying for wind.
The company changed the program earlier this year, disposing of the long-term contracts. Instead of a price tied to wind contracts, customers now pay an electricity rate that is higher than the standard rate. The extra revenue goes toward paying for wind power.
The company wants to generate 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Without the program’s money, the utility company said chasing that goal would have required spreading the cost across all ratepayers.
Some industry experts said the new changes to the program don’t show a direct link to Austin’s renewable energy objectives.
“It doesn’t really provide the value to the customer it once did,” said president Mike Sloan of Virtus Energy, a renewable energy consulting firm.
But Austin Energy said the changes have been popular with its customers. More than 2,300 of its customers have signed up for the new program in its first five months this year.
The company changed the GreenChoice program after it had a hard time selling new contracts in 2009, because of price. They blamed the increase in prices on the wind market and clogged transmission lines that made transporting wind energy more difficult. The company cut the duration of contracts in 2009 to five years, and in January of this year, it overhauled the program.
Under the new pricing system, GreenChoice members pay a charge of 1 cent per kilowatt-hour above the fuel charge all customers pay. The longest contract a business subscriber can get is three years. In its next budget year, the utility plans to cut the fee down even more. Austin Energy said the old system became too expensive, and members complained about being locked into costly long-term contracts.
Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding