Austin Energy Policy – Take a Stand

Saturday April 14 – the Austin City Council will hear the voices of Austin Energy’s suburban rate payers:

Lakeway City Hall – 1102 Lohmans Crossing Rd.
10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Join us at the meeting and help show the Austin City Council that we are serious about getting a fair rate plan that focuses on conservation and energy efficiency and keeps Austin Energy solvent without siphoning off our utility dollars as as hidden tax to support city services.

The Lakeway Halls holds 100 people – lets fill the hall!

We need to get the attention of the council on important issues that have been ignored but will cost us money, with little to no reward in energy conservation and a lost opportunity to get a sound energy policy in the Austin area.

Your attendance will matter, and if you are willing to speak up you also can sign up before the meeting (starting at 9:30am) to speak and lend your support for our community. The SRNA will be there to support the Homeowners United for Rate Fairness – HURF on the issue – and we appreciate your support as well.

We suggest that you arrive at the Lakeway City Hall about 9:30am. There will be a sign up list for those who would like to be given a 3 minute speaking slot. Homeowners United for Rate Fairness (HURF) will be looking to frame the issues early in the meeting, with some help from SRNA and you!. We encourage any and all of you to also speak on behalf of out of city ratepayers.

Here are some of the key issues with Austin Energy’s rate plan that impact us:

1. Taxation Without Representation

Austin siphons off approximately 15% of Austin Energy’s revenues and uses them to pay for services that benefit the city (police, fire, parades, festivals, etc.). Outside the city, ratepayers have to pay for our own services through our property taxes, plus for the services used strictly within the Austin city limits.

Out-of-city Austin Energy customers do not have a vote in how these $150M+ in revenues are spent. Essentially, 15% of our Austin Energy bill is a city tax, levied on customers outside the city. Clearly, this amounts to taxation without representation.

2. Proposed 5-Tier Energy Rates Are Ineffective, Complex and Punitive

AE currently has two rate tiers:
– A bottom tier that charges a low monthly rate for consumption of less than 500 kilowatt hours (kWhs) per month
– A second tier that charges a slightly higher rate for additional consumption. In the second tier, the rate per kWh is the same, regardless of consumption.

The new progressive rate structure has five rate tiers, and the rate per kWh increases as consumption increases up the tiers. In the top tier, the rate per kWh is almost twice the rate in the bottom tier, and is twice Austin Energy’s cost of providing electric service.

So far, the City Council has spent virtually no time discussing the proposed 5-tier rate structure, which we consider to be overly complex and punitive to owners of medium to large suburban homes.

AE’s Residential Rate Advisor said the following about the 5-tier rate structure:

I note that AE’s 5-tiered structure will be among the most complex rate structures in the country. I understand it was modeled after Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) rates in California. However, PG&E, at the request of its customers, is in the process of abandoning that structure in favor of a 3-tiered simpler structure. This structure, in my opinion, fails AE’s ― simple and understandable principle. From the perspective of ―fairness, the 5-tier structure charges high-usage customers much higher than the cost of service and therefore, in my opinion, fails the ―fairness principle.

5-Tier Rates are a major sticking point for us as suburban customers. AE claims they promote conservation by sending us “price signals” to conserve energy. But their plan is not based on efficiency or conservation, only total energy consumption. Many homeowners that invest heavily in energy efficient homes, appliances and take conservation measures will still pay punitive rates up to 2.5x the cost of service; so the only signal we are getting is that the city wants to soak us to pay for their out-of-control spending.

3. Austin Energy Is Raising Its Rates While Everyone Else’s in Texas Are Going Down

While Austin Energy’s rates were increasing by 15% in recent years, average residential rates in Texas DECREASED by 15% during the same time. Statewide rates will continue to decline, as gas prices drop, while Austin Energy’s rates go up and up. Austin Energy rates will be the highest in the region. As a result, for example, AE customers in Round Rock will likely find themselves paying 25-40% more than their neighbors whose homes fall outside the Austin Energy service area.