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Success of Austin’s Green Choice Program Displays the Future Path for Utility

Jan. 11, 2006

Success of Austin’s Green Choice Program Displays the Future Path for Utility

Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s TexasOffice

Green Choice has become the first choice for most Austin Energy customers. Austin’s Green Choice program is the nation’s most successful renewable energy program, and we are currently running in short supply due to heavy demand. We have such a demand for renewable energy due to the fact that   the largest businesses in town are buying as much of it as they can get. 

These businesses, as well as residential consumers, are buying clean renewable energy because it offers a fixed price without pollution. These smart businesses and consumers have looked at the future price of fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, and have decided it makes good sense to buy renewable energy because the fuel costs will not vary from season to season.

There is another more important reason for buying green power: The quality of our air and the stability of our climate are at stake. Power plants are the largest industrial sources of pollution in Texas and the largest single source of global warming gases. The grave climactic upsets of this past year – the twenty-plus hurricanes and the drought and wildfires that are consuming tens of thousands of acres in North Texas – have provided us with a taste of what an unstable climate is like. We must act. Fortunately, Austin citizens are heeding that call and literally using their clean power choice as a way to reduce greenhouse gases.   Now, other cities around the nation and their utility companies look to Austin Energy’s Green Choice program as a model.

We support this auction of the currently available remaining green power as a short-term fix for today’s problem, but we challenge the city’s leadership to take the next step and instruct Austin Energy to buy more renewable energy than the 150 megawatts for which it has requested bids in order to meet the evident public demand. 

Mayor Will Wynn has recently shown strong leadership when he said that he would like our city to be the first in the nation to obtain 50 percent of our energy from renewable sources and set a goal of achieving this by 2025. Meeting this challenge will take the vision and collective effort of our citizens. We urge the city to create a new Citizens’ Energy Task Force to develop the plan necessary to meet that goal.

The mayor and his staff deserve credit for recognizing the need to address global warming now and the importance of renewable energy and clean air that we can breathe. To protect our health and curb the already-evident destructive impacts of global warming, we must work diligently as a team for clean energy now.