Two new developments in the Austin Beyond Coal movement — solar and efficiency

Fresh on the heels of this weekend’s  big, massive BEYOND COAL earthday festivities in Austin, Texas, two new developments this week show in a practical sense how Austin can become one of the largest metropolitan areas to move beyond coal. First, tomorrow at City Council, a resolution sponsored by Councilmembers Spelman and Morrisson would form a nine-member task force to work with Austin Energy on an onsite solar goal and program for 2015 and 2020. A couple of years ago a Generation Task Force recommended that Austin set a 300 MW goal for 2020 for distributed renewable resources like PV solar panels. While the final Generation Plan adopted by Austin Energy and City Council did not include the distributed solar goal, they did say they would study the issue. Tomorrow, City Council will finally take the next step and ask nine experts to come up with a plan. Sierra Club believes it makes a whole lot more sense to spend our money on local solar and energy efficiency jobs and resources than spending $100 million a year just to import thousands of tons of coal and burn it at the dirty coal plant at Fayette. What’s good for Wyoming Coal Mining companies ain’t good for Austin, Texas!

If you are in Austin, consider dropping by City Council tomorrow and signing up in support of the resolution, which is Item 81 on their agenda. Meeting starts at 9:30 AM.

So what’s the second development you ask? Energy efficiency. The Generation Task Force adopted a goal of 800 MW of energy efficiency and demand response by 2020, but also recommended an energy efficiency potential study to see if we could do even more.

This week, Austin Energy released a very preliminary draft study done by Kema, a consultant our of California. The study — called Austin Energy DSM -Market Potential Assessment — (I call it AEDSMMPTA for short) — has lots of graphs and numbers and probably needs some further analysis. But what it says is there is the technical potential to reduce demand from EXISTING buildings by 793 MWs by 2020. Wait, you say — that’ s less than our stated goal by 2020! But you see there are new buildings coming into the Austin Energy service area all the time. And the report says there are about 15 MWs a year of additional energy savings by building those new buildings right. So add all that together and that’s 950 MWs of energy efficiency waiting to be had..

We think with a little work we can state that we can get well beyond 1,000 MWs of demand reduction in Austin, Texas — a pretty great way to get beyond coal, but stakeholders, Austin Energy and the Council will work on the report this summer to come up with a final plan.

How do we get out of coal? 950 or 1,000 MWs of Energy Efficiency and 300 MWs of onsite solar is a pretty good way.

Let’s Roll Beyond Coal in Austin.. Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Sierra Club

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