Austin Energy is a utility company owned by the city of Austin, the capital of Texas. It provides electricity for 692,000 people and is one of the leading pioneers in combining energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RES) programmes.
The utility launched a visionary strategic plan in 2003, containing self-imposed RES and EE standards. The goal for 2020 is to achieve:
These targets will be met through a diverse array of programmes. These include:
The current strategic plan is far from being the first for Austin Energy. In 1979, Roger Duncan, at that time an Austin City Council member, ran a campaign against the proposed South Texas Nuclear Project. Though the nuclear plant was eventually built, Mr. Duncan subsequently became an executive at Austin Energy and continued to work on establishing the energy conservation programmes that would have been needed to balance the rejection of the major new power source.
By 1982, these efficiency programmes had reduced Austin’s energy demand so dramatically that the city could remove a projected coal-fired power plant from its long-term generation plan. In the beginning of the 1990s, Austin Energy began a further reduction in its fossil fuel use by ramping up renewable energy investments; at that time primarily wind technology.
These efforts led the utility to become the first to formally analyse the synergies between EE and RES. It determined the following main synergies:
According to the senior management of Austin Energy, the next focus must be on creating net zero energy buildings. But for a utility company to survive in a zero energy building marketplace, a new business model needs to be created. For Austin Energy, always a pioneer, this represents the next great frontier.