Solar Austin’s Mission
Solar Austin works to accelerate the transition to clean renewable energy in Central Texas to build a healthy community and a strong local economy.
Solar Austin’s Local Policy Goals
Solar energy is carbon-free, requires little or no water, and is creating good-paying local jobs. Solar prices have declined dramatically in the past several years, making the technology accessible to middle-income households and many businesses. We support the following policies to keep the use of solar energy expanding in Austin and hope you will too:
- Increasing the local solar goal to 300 MW by 2027.
- Maintain at least the current solar budget to fund current and new initiatives.
- Make solar an option for multifamily housing by enabling fractional billing.
- Implement an enhanced rebate for affordable housing.
- Deliver direct benefit to low-income customers by implementing a utility-managed rooftop solar program that requires no investment from customer participants.
- New community solar options that promote long term savings for customers.
- Fair Value of Solar rates for all customers that include the social cost of carbon.
The Creation of Solar Austin
Solar Austin began in December 2002 as a small coalition of non-profit groups and businesses who came together to: promote renewable energy as a solution to the harmful effects of power plant pollution on our communities and our environment; and educate the public and policymakers on the benefits of developing the clean energy industry in Austin. Solar Austin later formalized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and now also includes a 501(c)(4) arm as well.
Innovative Policy Development
Solar Austin promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and smart energy technologies as well as transportation solutions that create healthy communities. We encourage policies and programs that advance the use of renewable energy and assure that clean energy options are available to people at all income levels.
Public Education and Outreach
Solar Austin holds regular public meetings and events designed to educate and engage the public in support of clean energy policies. Monthly Solar Austin Happy Hours bring together solar customers, those working in the solar industry, advocates and anyone interested in learning about solar.
Solar Austin advocates for strong and sensible clean energy polices that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the public health, environmental and economic problems this dependency creates. Our work to educate the Austin City Council members and their staffs about solar energy and the benefits it offers have made a measurable impact on solar policies in Austin.
A Record of Success
Since 2002, Solar Austin has been an effective forum for fostering solar community networking and galvanizing collective action across a wide range of high-profile issues affecting the success of solar energy in Austin.
Solar Austin’s successes include:
- Getting a solar rebate program established at Austin Energy
- Making GreenChoice – Austin Energy’s 100% renewable energy electricity option – a standard offer to utility customers
- Getting the Austin City Council to maintain the solar incentive program when significant cuts were proposed
- Ensuring that value of solar credit for residential customers is high enough to be fair for customers and not act as a disincentive for going solar – We did this by getting the Austin City Council to direct Austin Energy to use a 5-year rolling average for the value of solar calculation. We have also opposed various detrimental changes to the value of solar formula.
- Getting the Austin City Council to establish local solar goals
- 110 megawatts by 2020 – including at least 70 megawatts customer-controlled (distributed residential and commercial)
- 200 megawatts by 2025 – including at least 100 megawatts customer-controlled (distributed residential and commercial)
- Getting the Austin City Council to establish a 55% renewable energy goal
- Getting the Austin City Council to establish a 750 megawatt non-local utility-scale solar goal for 2017 (if available and affordable), or by 2025 (at the latest)
- Helping to get between 400 and 450 megawatts of new utility-scale solar contracts authorized by the Austin City Council – at record low prices of about 3.8 cents per kWh!
- Hosting many successful educational events
Solar Austin has been recognized with four local, state and national awards for its successful advocacy.
Current Solar Austin Goals
- Get the Austin City Council to expand local solar goals, including the customer-sited solar goal. Austin Energy staff designs programs to meet the goals that the Council sets. Without an expansion of the goals, incentives will soon be eliminated.
- Ensure that commercial solar installations will remain an attractive option for Austin Energy customers once the performance-based incentive is gone (which could be by the end of 2016). Austin Energy is launching a series of studies to inform this decision. One idea is to expand the value of solar tariff to commercial installations. Another option would be to expand the net metering cap beyond the current 20 kW limit.
- Ensure solar customers get a fair value for the energy they produce by advocating for a stronger value of solar by adjusting the formula.
- Help promote Austin Energy’s community solar program, when it’s rolled out.
- Make it possible for bill credits accrued from solar energy systems on multifamily housing and commercial spaces with multiple meters to be virtually divided an applied to multiple customer accounts. This is important for using solar on affordable housing, but also for other buildings with more than one customer.
- Work with Austin Energy and the Austin City Council to get an on-bill repayment program for solar energy installations established at Austin Energy