Monthly energy bills for Austin Energy customers may increase

Graysen Golter

Austin Energy customers may see their monthly energy bills increase starting in November.

After increased temperatures in Texas and the elimination of a previous large over-recovery, Austin Energy proposed an increase to residential bills in a memo Aug. 27. The current typical energy bill for customers in Austin is $86.72 per month and would increase to $88.05 per month in the fiscal year 2019-2020 if the proposal passes, according to an Austin Energy press statement.

Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council member, said the Council will vote on this change during one of their budget meetings next week.

Zoltan Nagy, an assistant professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering, said Austin’s growing urban population is also part of the reason for the increase in energy consumption. 

Nagy said there are several steps Austin can take to cut back on the city’s energy usage and citizens’ financial struggles. He said it is important to encourage locals to limit their use of appliances such as air conditioning when they’re not home as well as urge their city to expand its use of solar energy.

“The nice thing with solar is it is at maximum production when it’s at maximum heat,” Nagy said.

Kelly Soucy, the director of Student Emergency Services, said changes like these will increase student living expenses as most of UT’s age demographic is in the 18-25 year-old range and has to deal with new financial burdens and living alone for the first time in their lives.

Soucy said resources such as the Financial Support Plus 1 aid and the Student Emergency Fund are available to students saddled with the unexpected expenses.

 “(Students) are still always in a situation of unexpected burden,” Soucy said. “Whether it’s medical, a car accident, an apartment fire — those kinds of things happen. Being able to support things like our Student Emergency Fund … is huge. We can make sure students are successful in the classroom, which is why they’re here on campus.”

Peter McCrady, public information specialist at Austin Energy, said this increase is partly due to fluctuations in the Power Supply Adjustment, which compensates for undercharges and overcharges in utility bills during months with exceedingly high temperatures, such as August.

“These are charges meant to collect what we actually pay as an expense, including power supply costs and transmission services,” McCrady said in an email. “The PSA is based on actual costs from the previous 12 months, as well as any existing over-/under-recovery.”

Tovo said Austin must make investments and decisions in the future to help alleviate residents’ living expenses. She also said Austin needs to prepare for the impacts of climate change, such as higher-than-average temperatures and effects on local health and the economy.

“This speaks to our broader responsibility to develop and support really good strategies in a time of global warming,” Tovo said. “We are very fortunate to live in Austin, a leader in these issues and (a place that’s) really making sure we’re developing a climate-resistant city.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article had an incorrect amount for the current typical energy bill in Austin. The Texan regrets this error.