Austin City Council members Thursday gave Austin Energy the go-ahead to negotiate two power purchase agreements with Duke Energy Renewables for terms of up to 25 years for up to 200 MW of wind-generated electricity under each agreement for an estimated total contract amount of $500 million for each.
In addition, the council authorized Austin Energy to negotiate a power purchase agreement with E.ON Climate and Renewables North America for a term of up to 25 years for up to 170 MW of wind-generated electricity for an estimated total contract amount of $387.5 million.
Together, the contracts will increase the amount of renewable energy purchased by Austin Energy from 25 percent to 35 percent, meeting the utility’s goal of delivering 35 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
Austin Energy says the pricing for the wind energy represents a good opportunity and is very competitive with other types of generation available in Texas. The wind energy would come from about 100 turbines on the southern Texas coast. Currently, Austin Energy receives the annual output of up to 850 MW from wind turbines located at eight wind farms divided between West Texas and the Texas coast through long-term power purchase agreements. These energy resources, combined with the annual output of the 30 MW Webberville solar project and the 100 MW Nacogdoches biomass plant, mean that about 27 percent of the energy currently delivered by Austin Energy can be generated from renewable resources.
According to rankings released this month by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Austin Energy led all public power utilities in the country for sales of renewable energy in 2012 and finished second in the nation among all utilities. Austin Energy sold 744,443 MWh of renewable energy through its subscription-based GreenChoice program. Only Portland General Electric – an investor-owned utility serving 52 cities and almost twice as many customers as Austin Energy – sold more green power at 834,125 MWh per year. Austin Energy and CPS Energy in San Antonio – another public power utility – were the only electric utilities in Texas ranked in the top 10.
Austin Energy has set several national milestones through its GreenChoice program. The City of Austin municipal government, for example, became the first large city in America to power all of its city-owned buildings 100 percent with renewable energy through GreenChoice.
The Austin Independent School District also was the first to lead large school districts in the country for purchases of renewable energy, and Concordia University was the first college in the country to subscribe to 100 percent renewable energy.