IEN Member's Letter To Austin City City Council on Climate



The following is a letter written to City Council by Kazel Morgan of IEN member congregation, Wildflower Church, UU, re: coal pollution, clean energy expansion, and Ausin Energy’s GreenChoice program.


Dear City Council,

As a member of Austin’s Interfaith Environmental Network, I am writing regarding the scheduled meeting today, December 5, with Austin Energy.  As I understand it, AE will be presenting on several very important energy policy changes. Today, Austin is a leader in sustainability and we need to continue on that path. Unfortunately, many of AE’s proposals do not advance Austin’s stated goals to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and increase investment in renewable energy sources.
Fayette:  AE was tasked to prepare a study on the process of phasing out our use of coal energy and to present that report by the end of this month.  It is imperative that this study provide Austin with detailed information for all possibilities, including retiring the Fayette plant units that Austin owns together with the LCRA.  Simply selling our part of the plant so that those units continue to operate and create carbon emissions, just not Austin’s carbon emissions, does not make any ecological sense.  We need to retire those units to remove those carbon emissions entirely.   Retiring units that we co-own with the LCRA will not be an easy task, obviously.  But given the magnitude of the problem of climate change as well as the additional local environmental impacts of burning coal (even the “cleanest” coal), retiring is the only responsible action Austin can take.



Generation Plans: In the generation plans, AE needs to put more emphasis on solar energy.  They should not be adding generation from gas (800 MW) and reducing generation from solar (from the 400 MW goal Council decided on to only 200 MW). While gas obviously creates less carbon than coal, it has other known and unknown costs, including that fracking requires the use and contamination of water, releases methane (another contributor to global warming), and creates conditions for earthquakes (reported on just this morning on KUT’s State Impact, Texas).  Renewables are smarter for the environment.


GreenChoice:  AE’s plans for GreenChoice do great harm to what has been a truly forward-looking and valuable program.  GreenChoice allowed people see a direct connection between their electricity bill and renewable energy, and it allowed for the possibility of economic rewards down the road.  By making this choice for electricity from renewables, AE customers could actively encourage renewable energy production by investing directly in renewables when they paid their electricity bills.  And though they paid a higher cost, they could look forward to a lower cost as renewable production increases and prices fall.  GreenChoice was a good investment for the environment and a good investment economically for the AE customer.   However, under the proposed changes, as I understand them, customers will no longer perceive their purchase to be linked to renewable energy directly.  Rather, the one-cent charge tied to the cost of fossil-fuel-generated energy will create the perception that GreenChoice customers are simply contributing to AE’s general budget.  And they will no longer have an economic incentive for choosing GreenChoice.  The price for supporting renewable production will always be higher for the customer, and most absurdly, will always be tied to the cost of fossil fuels.  These are not smart changes for Austin to make to the GreenChoice program.  These changes will not help us meet and exceed Austin's goal to obtain 35% of our energy from renewable sources.



As you consider AE’s proposals, thank you for keeping in mind the urgent issue of mitigating climate change.  As you know, we need to do everything we can now, while we can still make a difference, to avoid the worst possible impacts of climate change.  Austin and this City Council have been leaders in this effort.  Please continue to be.  Thank you for your time.




© 2017 Interfaith Environmental Network