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Gas, nuclear and coal plants power Austin Energy to make $54 million during winter freeze, while 40% of Austin suffered without electricity
(Kyndel Bennett)

Austin Energy estimates it earned $54 million in net revenue during the winter weather event last month, according to a voluntary event notice filed by the city of Austin with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board on Monday.


Last month's historic winter storm left more than 40% of Austinites without power for days. Although the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which maintains around 90% of the state's electric grid, initially intended these blackouts to be rolling, the increased demand for energy combined with widespread generator failures threatened a total grid collapse; to avoid this, ERCOT officials instructed utilities such as Austin Energy to continue to "shed load"—or maintain blackouts—until supply improved.

Austin Energy both purchases power from ERCOT to provide to its customers and generates energy, which it is required under state law to sell back to ERCOT.

Austin Energy produces energy through a combination of sources:

  • gas
  • coal
  • nuclear
  • wind
  • solar

Its generation assets "largely stayed online'," according to the notice. As a result, the utility was able to continue generating power. Combined with the ERCOT-mandated blackouts, Austin Energy ultimately sold more energy into the ERCOT grid than its customers used at the time.

The utility estimates that—once load and fuel costs are accounted for—it will have made $54 million in net revenue. Because Austin Energy generated more energy than it used during the winter storm, the utility stands to make money off of the event.

This figure could change if ERCOT passes market defaults along to Austin Energy or the Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, retroactively repricing market transactions during the winter weather event. "Significant uncertainty in the overall outcome remains, and Austin Energy estimates that final net revenue results could be realized in a range between positive $104 million to negative $16 million," according to the filing.

Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent said any surplus revenue would benefit customers, who would see it reflected in lower fixed price rates, which are reviewed by Austin City Council annually and typically take effect in November. Council has directed the utility to lower its rates in recent years as part of its regular review process.

"We continued to provide generation, and the market needed generation," she told Texas House members during a Feb. 26 public hearing about the winter storm event. "But Austin Energy is a not-for-profit utility, and anything that we do in the marketplace with the investment of the generation that we have is a benefit to our customers and flows back to those customers."

Austin Energy relies on a diverse mix of generation assets, including its partial ownership of the Fayette Power Project coal plant in La Grange and the nuclear-powered South Texas Project in Bay City. Around 58% of its energy production comes from renewable sources such as solar and wind farms, according to its website. The utility aims to cease operation of its portion of the Fayette Power Project by 2022 as part of an ongoing effort to eliminate carbon and other pollutant emissions from its generation portfolio.

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A big announcement from Austonia

Howdy, and happy holidays.

I have some big news for you.

Austonia is now part of 6AM City, a fast-growing network of hyper-local newsletters across the country.

I’m proud to be telling you this, because 6AM City’s mission is very much like Austonia’s — a daily morning update on events, things-to-do and news, with an underlying mission of community building in the cities they serve.

If you’re not already subscribed, 6AM City’s Austin newsletter is called ATXtoday. One of its city editors is Laura Figi, who you’ll remember for her previous great work on Austonia’s newsletter.

I’ve been reading ATXtoday every day since it launched last year.

Starting this week, you’ll receive ATXtoday every morning and I’m confident it will become part of your daily wake up routine. Be sure to add hello@theatxtoday.com to your contact list (how to do that here).

Meantime let me thank you for your readership and support of Austonia, and convey my wishes for a great holiday season for you and those close to you.


Thank you,

Mark Dewey

Austonia CEO

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.