Texas Public Policy Foundation hosted an event in Georgetown, Texas — the city once famous, now infamous, for the claim that its municipal electricity utility uses 100 percent renewable energy. But reality has officially caught up with the hype.
The city is losing millions of dollars in its electricity fund, spending nearly $30 million more than budgeted over the past few years, because it has to sell excess wind electricity at night for a loss, and pay a premium for natural gas electricity in the late afternoon, when prices are high.
Yellow vests—reminiscent of the Yellow Vests (gilets jaunes) movement in France over environmental policies that are straining middle class workers—were visible throughout the room, as citizens of Georgetown demanded transparency and accountability from city officials.
Transparency is the root of the problem. The contracts for renewable energy might not have been signed if citizens were better informed and city leaders more accountable.
The city is seeking to renegotiate the contracts, cut expenses and general fund transfers, and raise rates. But those options place the burden of solving the problem on the backs of Georgetown citizens. Instead, the city has several options to improve or remedy the situation.
- Terminate the contracts and pay the early termination fee. LCRA is negotiating with a wind company to pay $60 million to get out of their contract. But it is hard for the public to determine whether this is a viable option for Georgetown because the city won’t disclose what their contract terms are.
- Use the threat of termination or bankruptcy to force better negotiating terms, which they have yet to do publicly.
- Release more information about the contracts and educate Georgetown citizens. Many knowledgeable citizens may have suggestions for the city.
Georgetown citizens are also calling for an end to Chapter 312 and 313 tax abatements for renewable energy companies. Ultimately, their problem was created by the tremendous amount of subsidies going to renewable energy companies, at the federal, state, and local levels.