An Energy Efficiency Firm: Austin Energy

  • June 10, 2009

Austin Energy1 has been actively promoting conservation since 1982, "before it was on everyone's radar," according to spokesman Ed Clark. Its Power Saver program has encouraged customers to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient through rebates and low-interest loans for improvements from weather stripping to solar panel installation. Austin Energy works with 80 independent local heating and air-conditioning services to make the improvements in the Austin, Texas, metropolitan area. In addition, the utility company has a two-year-old partnership with Austin Community College, in which students intern with Austin Energy and other area utilities in preparation for post-graduate jobs.

Austin Energy is a city department. Because it is publicly owned and its profits become part of the city's general fund, every investment the group makes of more than $50,000, such as the purchase of its $2.3 billion biomass plant, must be reviewed and approved by the Austin City Council before it can be implemented. The short-term costs of moving to renewable energy sources can cause concerns for constituents—but energy efficiency and ultimate cost savings to consumers and the city benefit everyone, said Clark. The city council recently passed a new Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure Ordinance that will go into effect June 1, 2009, requiring energy audits of all homes more than 10 years old before they are sold, and disclosure of the results to prospective buyers. Clark predicted that in addition to increasing the demand for efficiency improvement products and services, the ordinance will create a need for about 100 certified inspectors to perform the audits.2

1 Companies that help drive demand for products and services in the clean energy economy, such as Austin Energy, are important to note. Austin Energy, like other utilities, invests in developing clean, renewable energy sources and provides incentives for its customers and suppliers to adopt energyefficient technologies and practices, thereby creating a market demand for the clean energy economy. But while these businesses are critical to growing the clean energy economy, they are not included in our count of businesses and jobs. As noted in Appendix B, Pew's analysis captures only the producers and suppliers of the products and services in the clean energy economy, not the companies or institutions that drive demand—underscoring the fact that our count is conservative.

2 Pew interview with Ed Clark, public information officer for Austin Energy, April 6, 2009; certifications are given by the Building Performance Institute and the Residential Energy Services Network.


Topics: Energy, Environment