Georgetown, Texas, a community of 50,000 people 25 miles north of Austin is poised to become the first city in the Lone Star state to receive 100% of its power from renewable energy sources.
Thanks to investments in its grid by the state government, most Texas cities enjoy an electricity market that is deregulated, meaning customers have the right to choose from a variety of providers and plans. In Houston there are more than 70 plans that offer energy from entirely renewable sources.
Market-based Energy Purchasing
In Georgetown, the city utility company has a monopoly but can still choose the city’s provider like individuals elsewhere in Texas. When its staff examined their options last year, they discovered something that seemed remarkable, especially in Texas: renewable energy was cheaper than non-renewable. In February, city officials finalized a deal with SunEdison, a multinational solar energy company. It means that by January 2017, all electricity within the city’s service area will come from wind and solar power.
Last year Georgetown signed a 20-year agreement with EDF for wind power from a planned project near Amarillo, the deal with SunEdison takes the renewable elements of the city’s power supply up to 100%. SunEdison will build plants in west Texas that will provide Georgetown with 150 megawatts of solar power in a deal running from 2016 or 2017 to 2041. With consistent and reliable production the goal, the combination of wind and solar takes into account that wind farms generate most of their energy in the evenings, after the sun has set.
Renewable Sources Were Less Expensive
Officials in Georgetown insist they are not doing this to look good or to curry favor with environmentalists, who are generally not viewed favorably by the city’s mostly over-50 and conservative residents.
“I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find,”Jim Briggs, Georgetown’s interim city manager, told the London Guardian. “We didn’t do this to save the world – we did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers.”