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Solar a Shining Opportunity for Austin – Solar Goals and Programs Need Expanding

Business leaders, environmentalists and low income advocates are behind a push to get Austin to increase its solar energy goal to 400 megawatts by 2020 and expand solar programs to meet that goal.

A diverse group of community leaders appointed to the Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) by City Council examined solar opportunities in Austin and unanimously recommended that we double our 2020 solar goal, creating an estimated $300 million in net economic benefits and staying well within our current affordability goals.

“The Austin Energy leadership is saying we can’t afford to do this now,” says Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “But they are only looking at replacement power costs.  The value of solar is far more than replacing wholesale power.  It increases revenue for the city from off system sales of peak power we won’t need at home. Expanding solar goals will mean reduced costs for peak power, fuel, hedging, insurance, maintenance and transmission, as well as reduced water use and pollution.  The LSAC looked at all of those factors and that’s why the business, solar and environmental community all agreed that we should expand our goals now.”

2013-08-06 400MW Solar is 5.2-6 Percent of Austin Energy Demand by 2020 (sun pie graph)The LSAC report shows that expanding the solar goal to 400 MW by 2020 – which would meet 5.2-6% of Austin Energy’s electric demand – would be affordable.  Current affordability limits are set at 2% of anticipated utility revenue and the solar program would never go beyond 0.31% – likely less, according to the LSAC report and would reduce costs by 2020.  The affordable nature of the plan is what got low income advocates to support it.

Susan McDowell, executive director at Lifeworks supports the expansion of Austin’s solar goals.  “Keeping up with rising electric bills is a struggle for many working families, especially in the summer.  Solar is cheaper over the long run and can ease that pressure.  We need more solar programs geared toward working families, including those who rent.”

Instead of embracing the recommendations, Austin Energy has proposed a 42% cut to its solar rebate program for fiscal year 2014, from $7.3 million to $4.2 million.  Supporters of the LSAC recommendations are asking City Council to move in the opposite direction and expand the solar budget to $10 million dollars.

We need a solar budget large enough to meet demand. This year, Austin Energy reduced the solar rebate to avoid running out of money before the year was over.  Solar is becoming more popular and we should take advantage of that.

While the LSAC did envision an eventual reduction and end to solar rebates, the Committee recommended investing more now to establish the industry in Austin and take advantage of a 30% federal tax credit for solar installations.

“Low solar prices, coupled with the 30% federal tax credit, give us the opportunity to get more solar installed for each dollar spent than ever before,” says BJ Stanbery, CEO of Heliovolt.  “And unlike most of the other energy sources we rely on, our investment in solar feeds into our local economy.  The time to establish the Austin solar business cluster is now because the 2016 federal ITC reduction from 30% to 10% is setting the timeline for industry maturation.”

The solar industry has already created hundreds of jobs in Austin, many of them in installation.  Solar installation companies are small, locally owned business and the jobs they create can’t be outsourced.

Carey Ibrahimbegovic, president and CEO of Greenbelt solar says, “We’re working hard to bring solar to as many families and business as we can and we’re creating good local jobs as we do that.  Austin area solar companies already employ over 600 people and meeting a 400 MW solar goal will create an estimated 420 new local direct and induced jobs each year from 2013 to 2020, with an average increase in local annual payroll of over $10 million.”

Rally for Solar on August 7th

Please put August 7th on your calendar for the Rally for Solar at noon in front of City Hall.

Solar SavesThe Local Solar Advisory Committee that City Council formed last year unanimously recommended a 400 megawatt solar goal for Austin by 2020. The economic benefits will far outweigh the costs. Now is the time for City Council to adopt the 400 megawatt goal.

Please join us at noon on August 7th in front of City Hall, and bring a friend or co-worker along too!

We are also advocating for Austin’s first ever community solar program so everyone, including those who rent, can take advantage of solar.

City Council will be setting the budget for the coming year in August. They need to hear that solar must be a priority and that the 400 megawatt goal should be adopted now.

Solar Austin Happy Hour: Expanding Solar Goals and Programs in Austin

Please note:
No happy hour in June.
Starting July 16, our happy hours will be on
the third Tuesday of each month
at Scholz Garten. 

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RSVP HERE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 5:30 – 8:00pm

Scholz Garten, in the Saloon (Private) room

1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX,78701 (map)

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Parking is usually free in the state parking garages after 6:00 p.m.

State Parking Garages can be found next to, behind and across from Scholz Garten. San Jacinto Blvd., 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and Trinity have parking garage entrances.

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We invite you to join us on for a happy hour discussion of solar goals and programs at Austin Energy and how to ensure that Austin maintains its role as a solar leader in Texas.
 
In April, 2012, Austin City Council established the Local Solar Advisory Committee (LSAC) to develop a strategic plan for utilizing solar energy resources in Austin.  The LSAC was a 20-member citizen committee with broad representation from the community and a wealth of expertise on solar energy.
Over the course of five months, the LSAC researched many aspects of solar energy and developed a report with recommendations for how Austin should expand development of our solar energy resources.  On November 1, 2012, the LSAC unanimously approved the report, titled “A Strategic Plan for Local Solar in Austin“.
The report shows that Austin Energy can cost effectively develop 400-600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020.  The LSAC also recommended several other policy changes, including:
  • a regular review of our progress toward our solar goals,
  • establishing community solar options for those who rent or have a roof that is shaded or facing the wrong direction, and
  • improving financing options.
Austin City Council will soon be working on the 2014 budget, so now is a great time to make sure that the LSAC recommendations are implemented and appropriate funding for program expansions is allocated. 
 
Austin has lead the way on solar development in Texas, largely because solar advocates like you have shared your views and expertise with Austin Energy and Austin City Council.
Please join us on Tuesday, July 16th at Scholz Garten to hear more about the LSAC recommendations and how we can make ourselves heard at City Hall.  Members of our board of directors will speak briefly about the issues and then open the floor to comments, questions and discussion.
5:30 PM: Happy Hour and Networking
6:30 PM: Speakers and Discussion

Solar Austin Happy Hour – Learn the Latest at Austin Energy!

We invite you to join us at the Chapel Stage at Spider House on Wednesday, February 20th at 6:30 pm to meet Deborah Kimberly, Austin Energy’s new VP of Distributed Energy Services, and get an update on Austin Energy’s solar programs from Lesley Libby, the Solar Program Manager.  Please RSVP.

SPEAKERS:

Deborah KimberlyDeborah Kimberly

As of January 22, Ms. Kimberly is the new VP of Distributed Energy Services at Austin Energy.  Prior to that, she was the Director of the energy efficiency and marketing groups for Salt River Project (SRP), the third largest public power electric utility in the country, based in Tempe, Arizona.  Since 1982 Ms. Kimberly had served in many capacities at SRP including analyst, manager of financial planning, special projects manager, manager of financial services, manager of energy efficiency and policy analysis and director of customer programs and marketing.  As Director of the energy efficiency and marketing groups, her responsibilities included energy efficiency product design and implementation, marketing of all SRP products, price plans and services, corporate events management, measurement and evaluation, and customer and market research.

At Austin Energy, Kimberly will oversee the utility’s energy efficiency and load management programs, including Energy Efficiency Services, Green Building, Solar Programs, Emerging Technologies, Key Accounts, and Data Analytics and Business Intelligence.

Leslie LibbyLeslie Libby

Ms. Libby is the Solar Program Manager at Austin Energy.   She graduated from Montana State University in 1984 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. In December 1992, she graduated with a M.S. in Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. From May 1991 to the present, she has been employed by Austin Energy. Leslie has managed Austin Energy’s solar incentive programs from it’s inception in 2004.

From 2004 until the present, Austin Energy has provided customers with $30 million in incentives which has allowed 1900 participants to install 7 MW of solar on their rooftops. Austin Energy’s latest achievement is the creation of an innovative “Residential Solar Rate.” This rate compensates customers who have invested in local, distributed solar for the value these resources provide the utility. This rate has been nationally recognized by Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and most recently by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).

We hope you hope you’ll join us to hear from both of these great speakers!  Happy hour starts at 6:30 pm and the program will start at 7:00 pm. 

We need you to stand up for solar on December 19th!

We need you to stand up and demand better clean energy policy on December 19th! The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is holding a hearing on the effectiveness of the Public Utility Commission (PUC).

We need to use this opportunity to push for better policies for clean energy.  The PUC has once again refused to implement the non-wind renewable portfolio standard without any public discussion.  Let the Sunset Advisory Commission know that you are displeased with the PUC’s refusal to implement the law.

We also need to push for a statewide net metering policy.  Many electric customers outside of Austin and San Antonio don’t receive any credit on their electric bills for the energy that they push out to the grid when they are producing more than they are using.  This unfair and provides a disincentive for installing distributed systems in many areas.  We need to start pushing for a statewide net metering policy now.

We need solar advocates like you to make your voices heard!

Sign up now to attend: www.CleanEnergyWorksForTexas.org.

Even if you don’t wish to speak at the hearing, your presence would still be a good show of support.