Last Updated April 27, 2015
Renewables Portfolio Standard
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
The City Council of Austin, Texas, first adopted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 1999 (Resolution No. 990211-36). The RPS was subsequently amended several times, with the current RPS goal—65% renewables by 2025—among the most ambitious in the nation.
Renewable resources include those that rely on energy derived directly from the sun, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wave or tidal energy, or biomass or biomass-based waste products, including landfill gas.
Goals and Requirements
The RPS for Austin Energy (the City of Austin’s municipal utility) and the city as a whole include the following renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals, targets, and standards:
- 2020: meet 50 percent of all energy needs through the use of renewable resources
- 2025: meet 65 percent of all energy needs through the use of renewable resources
- 2030: reduce carbon dioxide emissions from all city-controlled generation resources to zero by 2030
- 2050: achieve a goal of reaching net zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions
In August 2014 the City Council increased the RPS solar carve-out by setting a goal for Austin Energy of 600 megawatts (MW) of new utility-scale solar by 2017 and 200 MW of “local solar” by 2020, of which at least 100 MW is to be customer-controlled (behind the meter) solar.
In August 2014 the City Council directed the City Manager to develop and implement the “policies, procedures, timelines, and targets necessary to make Austin the leading city in the nation in the effort to reduce and reverse the negative impacts of global warming.”
To achieve this vision and the above goals, the City Council specified that the City Manager implement several design enhancements to its solar market. First, Austin Energy’s commercial and residential solar incentive program will be revised to explicitly allow third-party leased system hosts to participate in a commercial and residential incentive program. Second, the Residential Solar Tariff (i.e., the Value of Solar Rate) incentive will be enhanced in the following ways:
- allow excess credits to be rolled over from year to year (instead of being reset at zero at the start of a calendar year),
- allow solar energy systems of any size to be eligible for the Residential Solar Tariff by removing the existing 20 kW cap,
- set an annual price floor equal to the residential electric rates of a “tier 3 customer” (i.e., $0.091 per kilowatt-hour for the rates approved September 2013),
- allow leased system hosts to receive value of solar credits, and
- adopt a 5-year rolling average in calculating the annual assessment.
Third, the City Manager will develop a comprehensive strategy for the deployment and use of distribution-level and transmission-level storage technologies with a target of 200 MW of fast response storage by 2024.
Among its other initiatives designed to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Austin City Council has also adopted the mayor's Climate Protection Plan (Resolution 20070215-023), set a green power procurement goal of powering municipal buildings and facilities using 100% renewable energy by 2012, and implemented advanced building codes to maximize energy efficiency.
Cost Mitigation Measures
Notably, Austin’s Affordability Goal (set in 2011 and reaffirmed in August 2014) calls for rate increases to residential, commercial, and industrial Austin Energy customers to not exceed 2% per year, with a goal of maintaining Austin Energy’s rates in the lower 50 percent of Texas rates overall.