City meets 100-percent green energy goal

Jillian Bliss

Austin has some of the most eco-friendly municipal buildings in the state, thanks in part to a plan created by former city officials.

That planning will be validated on Oct. 1, when Austin will reach its goal of becoming the largest local government to run off of 100 percent renewable energy. In 2007 former mayor Will Wynn proposed the Austin Climate Protection Plan with the intention of running Austin’s municipal facilities with only renewable energy by 2012. The city will reach its goal one year early. The plan states that city officials hoped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create cleaner air quality by powering city facilities with renewable energy alone, as well as achieving other green goals.

“Austin has established a new goal for other cities to try to achieve,” said Matt Curtis, spokesman for Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “We knew the easiest way to show our community and to show the nation our strong commitment to green power would be for us to use it ourselves.”

Curtis, who also worked for the city during Wynn’s administration, said city officials are excited to set the standard not only for other Texas cities, but for Austin residents as well. Curtis said officials have worked to “go green” by investing in wind farms and solar power for the city in order to achieve the first goal. Other goals listed in the plan included developing city transportation fleets powered by non-petroleum fuels, creating a reduction plan for household utility emissions and enhancing incentives for green builders.

Jeff Sabins, president of McCombs CleanTech Group, a graduate student organization, said he and other members chose to attend UT because of the environmentally aware mentality of Austin. Sabins, who is a business administration graduate student, said most CleanTech members are business students hoping to work with renewable energy, and he is glad the city wants to help students like himself not only make good choices, but possibly even find a career.

“A lot of people in our group are trying to find jobs and get involved in the [renewable energy] industry,” Sabins said. “We’re not a tiny city here, so to see innovation on that sort of scale makes us proud of the fact that we can work towards making this approach more widespread.”

Sabins said CleanTech members speak with renewable energy companies on a regular basis and are involved in learning about new ways to create a cleaner climate.

The city offers residents the opportunity to subscribe to renewable energy in their homes, and while these services may be a bit pricier, Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark said he hopes residents will realize the difference their choice can make. He said although a current subscription to renewable energy may cost more, those who subscribe will save money in the future. Clark said the city is committed to its current renewable resources on a fixed rate which keeps prices from rising.

“Natural gas and other fuels used in the conventional generation are expected to rise,” Clark said. “By having a fixed price you put a hedge against rising prices in the future.” 

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: City of Austin meets goal of complete green energy