Austin - Austin Energy Solar Program

Challenges

Austin Energy’s main challenge within the programme has been to keep rates low, with no more than a 2% increase per year, while still rapidly expanding solar. In order to make solar a competitive, sustainable option over the long term, the utility must keep rates in the bottom half of Texas utilities and balance both sustainability and affordability. The program’s other challenges come with the territory of being innovative and ambitious. Installing solar quickly at the local level while also integrating solar into Austin Energy’s billing and metering systems required that the programme develop system upgrades and new kinds of rates, metering, and streamlined permits; ultimately, this sets a precedent for future programs within Texas and beyond. Further, an integrated solar and storage pilot bolster research into new storage mechanisms and community value creation.

 

Challenges

Austin Energy’s main challenge within the programme has been to keep rates low, with no more than a 2% increase per year, while still rapidly expanding solar. In order to make solar a competitive, sustainable option over the long term, the utility must keep rates in the bottom half of Texas utilities and balance both sustainability and affordability. The program’s other challenges come with the territory of being innovative and ambitious. Installing solar quickly at the local level while also integrating solar into Austin Energy’s billing and metering systems required that the programme develop system upgrades and new kinds of rates, metering, and streamlined permits; ultimately, this sets a precedent for future programs within Texas and beyond. Further, an integrated solar and storage pilot bolster research into new storage mechanisms and community value creation.

 

Projected Outcomes

The Austin Energy Solar Program changes the scope and potential of solar power within a city context by dedicating time and resources to researching how to expand beyond the traditional market for renewables. The local impact of this project is massive –– with just 77 MW installed in the Austin region to date, the initiative has already brought $370 million to the local economy.  Educational field trips to the City’s 30 MW solar farm help expand understanding of solar energy for students, community groups, and visiting business, utility, and government delegations from outside of Austin.