Austin approves ambitious renewable energy plan



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Posted on April 22, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 22 at 6:39 PM

The City of Austin adopted a long-range alternative energy plan Thursday afternoon -- a move that could make it one of the greenest cities in the nation.

Austin City Council members passed the plan unanimously in front of a packed city hall filled with passionate supporters and critics.

The plan calls for city-owned Austin Energy to get 35 percent of power from renewable resources such as wind and solar power by the year 2020. Currently, more than 10 percent of Austin’s power comes from renewable resources.

Before the vote, more than 30 people expressed their opinions over Austin’s plan to create a more sustainable community.

The Group "Austinites for Action" argues greener energy comes at a price. They estimate a 57 percent rate increase over the next 10 years. The figure is considerably higher than the city’s 20 percent rate increase estimate.

"On top of that there are fuel costs, transmission charges and a rate increase. Austin Energy is belly up with a deficit for next year and the City of Austin is belly up as you can see with the deficit for next year," said Austintes for Action member Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Austin Energy customer Carrier Hernandez says the move to renewable energy is just too expensive, especially for families on fixed income.

"How are we going to pay it? We won’t be able to pay any more than what we already pay," said Hernandez.

The Austin City Council listened to concerns over affordability and took action. Mayor Lee Leffingwell proposed a last minute amendment. It stipulates the green energy plan will not take effect until the city adopts cost saving measures, which could happen by the end of the year.

The city says the energy plan is flexible and will rely on a mix of coal, nuclear, gas, biomass, wind and solar power.

"If costs of a particular type of renewable energy are too high we can forgo that and turn to something else and go in a different direction," said Mayor Lee Leffingwell.