State Representative Paul Workman introduced a series of legislation designed to improve service, transparency, and fairness for customers of the City of Austin's municipally-owned electric utility, Austin Energy.
"Austin Energy customers have experienced unacceptable rates stemming from uneconomical investments, an inherently political management structure, and unaccountable operations due to the utility's state-sanctioned monopoly," said Rep. Workman. "Unfortunately, Austin's energy policy decisions are being driven by social engineering rather than affordability and economic realities. These problems with the City of Austin and Austin Energy are negatively impacting the skyrocketing cost of living in Austin. Austin Energy customers, particularly those living outside the Austin city limits who have no voice, deserve relief now."
HB 1458 will allow the Austin City Council to transfer management and control of the city's municipally- owned electric utility, Austin Energy, to an independent board of trustees appointed by the City Council. Austin Energy is currently the largest municipally owned electric utility in Texas that is managed directly by the city's council.
HB 1459 will cap the amount of Austin Energy revenue that can be transferred to the City of Austin's general fund at 12% annually. This legislation further requires that revenue generated by Austin Energy may only be utilized for expenses directly related to the operation of the electric utility.
HB 1460 will allow a retail customer or a group of customers whose total electric usage exceeds 25,000 megawatt hours per year to file a request for the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to review the Austin Energy rates that apply to that group of customers. If the PUC determines Austin Energy's rates are not just and reasonable or are not consistent with the rates available to customers who have access to the competitive market, the PUC shall set rates for those customers or allow those customers to purchase electricity from a retail provider.
HB 1461 will require Austin Energy to transfer service for its customers not living within the Austin city limits to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative or to the Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, depending on the service location. The electric cooperatives will be required to purchase affected transmission lines and poles from Austin Energy.
Regarding HB 1461, Rep. Workman remarked, "Moving out-of-city Austin Energy customers to member- owned electric cooperatives will finally give a voice to those who for too long have had no input on the management of their publicly-owned electric utility. The added benefit, of course, would be substantially lower electric bills for these customers."
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