Recent scientific research has exposed the connection between using fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
When we rely on fossil fuels for our energy needs, we release excessive carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which leads to warmer temperatures, ocean acidification, and rising sea levels.
In order to avoid the consequences of using fossil fuels, many communities are becoming proactive, especially when it comes to supplying energy to their inhabitants.
In this article, we discuss one of the most innovative energy suppliers in the nation, specifically Austin Energy. First, we offer a brief overview of this utility company, emphasizing some of its more recent endeavors as well as the benefits of its approach to energy. Finally, we end with our thoughts on the future of the energy industry, noting our predictions for the future of Austin Energy.
An Overview of Austin Energy
Austin Energy is an electric utility company that has been community-owned since 1895.
It makes money by supplying electric power and chilled water to over 460,000 customers in the greater Austin area of Texas. This translates to almost one million people.
Their total revenue in 2016 was 1.38 billion dollars. Austin is the third largest city in the US to provide community-owned electric utility services.
Despite these figures, Austin Energy makes no profit and pays no federal income taxes. They do allocate some of their profit each year to other purposes related to the police, fire department, and parks department.
What’s unique about Austin Energy is that they own a coal plant and a nuclear power plant, as well as natural gas-fueled power generation facilities.
Austin is considered one of the nation’s leaders in adopting innovative technologies related to energy. They consistently encourage renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biomass energy, and incentivize customers to invest in these forms of energy through various programs, rebates, and loans.
Austin Energy’s Commitment to Environmental Excellence
Austin Energy considers itself a leader when it comes to environmental sustainability. They are committed to achieving carbon-free electric power by 2050, primarily using wind, solar, and biomass energy.
Austin Energy notes that its commitment to these values began in the 1990’s, when they purchased wind energy from Texas’ first commercial wind plant.
Currently, about 24 percent of Austin Energy’s power is generated using renewable energy. About 43 percent of this comes from wind power, 43 percent from solar power, and 14 percent from biomass power.
Furthermore, about 50 percent of Austin Energy’s power generation releases no carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Even though Austin Energy has witnessed a rapid increase in the population of Austin over the past 20 years, their total carbon dioxide emitting capacity has not changed since then.
This is a testament to how focused the utility company is on energy efficiency. These values don’t seem to be disappearing any time soon, as Austin Energy plans on providing 3.2 MW of solar power to customers who can’t install a home solar system in the future.
Community Outreach at Austin Energy
Austin Energy is unlike most utility companies in that they are focused on community outreach and education.
They offer a number of speaker options, specializing in renewable energy, to interested audiences.
Austin Energy is also a great resource if you are interested in touring power plants directly. They lead tours of their natural gas and district cooling plants. These are great opportunities for older children to learn how electricity is produced and transmitted.
Austin Energy also refers anyone interested in touring a solar power plant to Webberville Solar Farm. Austin Energy uses all of the solar power generated by this plant despite not actually owning them. Consequently, you have to go through the farm if you are interested in peeking behind the scenes.
Representatives from Austin Energy also attend many job fairs and community events throughout the year. Austin Energy also sponsors many events throughout the year, emphasizing energy and science themes.
The Benefits of Austin Energy’s Vision
It’s clear that Austin Energy supports environmental sustainability, specifically a carbon-free future based on renewable energy rather than non-renewable power.
These values are crucial amidst the current political climate, as a tipping point is finally being reached regarding alternative energy sources. About a third of the country’s states are passionately dedicated to a renewable future, and Austin Energy is arguably leading the charge.
It’s important for energy companies to innovate and push forward as uncertainty over future energy usage surfaces. Many energy companies have adopted these sustainable values but need a model for how to act in the future. Austin Energy is the paragon of environmental excellence in this regard.
They offer many rebates and incentives for switching to wind or solar power, whether you are an individual homeowner or a business. For example, the Residential Solar Rebate offers homeowners the chance of earning a $2500 rebate after they complete a solar education course and install a qualifying solar system on their home.
This is not some boring, ineffective solar education course, however. It goes over everything you might need to know regarding purchasing solar panels in Austin.
This rebate, as well as many others that can be found on this webpage, show that Austin Energy is serious about the future of renewable energy. The City of Austin has set the goal of having 65 percent of the energy it uses be renewable by 2027. Austin Energy is committed to this goal through its many programs and projects, like the Austin SHINES project.
Our Final Thoughts on the Future of Austin Energy
We think Austin Energy offers a model for how all utility companies should operate in the future.
Ideally, the city you live in should provide you with a service that supports sustainability and renewable energy. If you are living in Austin, then you can benefit from the many services that Austin Energy provides, knowing that they are geared toward a greener, more efficient future.
If you are not living in a city with a sustainable, community-focused utility company, then perhaps it’s time you bought that one-way ticket and relocated to a more progressive area.
We think the radical approach of Austin Energy will bring hordes of new citizens to the city of Austin in the future. This can already be seen now, as Austin Energy estimates that it gained over 9000 new customers last year.
These changes are going to challenge Austin Energy to continue meeting its energy efficiency standards. However, new customers will also result in more job opportunities, as Austin Energy will need to expand its operations to support a growing population.
We see the Austin area as being a mecca of sustainability in the near future, with Austin Energy as one of the main attractions.
We think Austin Energy will expand its community programs and offer more educational opportunities in the future.
Furthermore, we think Austin Energy will collaborate with many new companies in the future that offer technologies designed to facilitate energy efficiency. This could be as simple as providing these technologies to residential customers, or updating the city of Austin’s energy infrastructure.
What’s great about Austin Energy is that they have balanced values. They are focused on the bigger picture but achieve this through a community-based approach rooted in the area’s unique traditions. This is a radical approach to permaculture that many cities should consider adopting.
Our Thoughts on the Future of Energy
We think the world will move away from non-renewable energy sources in the near future, embracing solar power, wind power, and biomass power instead.
Eventually, these renewable sources of energy will become common. Our past abuse of our environment’s resources will appear almost absurd. We think this absurdity is already palpable, but it will be realized on a mass scale in the near future.
We think nuclear energy is an insidious option that should be cautiously approached in the future. Nuclear energy does not contribute significant carbon emissions when compared with fossil fuels. However, any accidents related to operating a nuclear power plant can be costly for surrounding areas, making this source of energy dangerous.
Some countries are embracing nuclear energy while others are trying to phase it out. The US seems somewhere in between at the moment. We see this changing in the future as solar, wind, and biomass energy become more available.
As customers, it’s partially our responsibility to demand a sustainable future into existence. We essentially vote on the future of our planet each time we pay our monthly energy bill. If your area has options for supplying your electricity through renewable energy, then we recommend embracing them.
The more money that these kinds of sustainable sources generate, the more research that can be done on future technologies. Just because we have discovered the potential of these alternative sources of energy doesn’t mean we’ve mastered them.
Ultimately, we still have a long way to go if we want to return the planet to a state of health and balance.
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