“Enough research will tend to support your conclusions.” This thought from the author of The Complete Murphy’s Law, Arthur Bloch, could be applied current controversy concerning Georgetown Utility System’s green energy program. After reviewing the recent coverage by local media, there is certainly no shortage of “information” available. As with any fact-set, in order to be truly informed, it is imperative to confirm that the information presented is both accurate and complete. Whether you are a supporter of green energy ideals and methodology or not, please consider the following:
1. If the clamoring around this issue is your only information source, it would be natural to assume that those who entered into this agreement in 2012 on behalf of the city did so without due diligence. In reality, they did so with the assistance of top-notch energy consultants. Using the best information at the time, the city was advised that this long-term contract would be beneficial and profitable over the course of the agreement. However, just like with your 401K, there is volatility in the energy market, and in the immediate, wind and solar energy are in the lower part of the cycle.
2. The city can implement a Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) surcharge to mitigate increases or decreases in the cost of energy which would be reflected on customers’ monthly bills. Initially, instead of placing the Power Cost Adjustment fee on residents, as is common among every other energy company in the state, the City of Georgetown funded these energy costs with money from the City’s excess fund balance; for nearly two years the city covered the volatility in the cost of energy without affecting the electric rate—a move virtually unheard of elsewhere. Recently, Georgetown has added a $12.82 per month PCA charge. In the past, Georgetown’s PCA has, at times, been significantly higher than this one. Personally, my own PCA varied from $12 to $42 in 2018 using another electric provider.
3. Excess energy will not always be excess energy. By the year 2022, at a growth rate of four to six percent, this excess energy will not have to be put on the market, but will be utilized by new Georgetown residents and businesses.
4. To those who are calling for the release of the contract and specific cost numbers of the original agreement, the opinion from the State Attorney General is that this simply cannot be done. To do so would put the city in breach, causing the possibility of damages in the millions of dollars. Additionally, the city’s credibility and stellar bond rating would be put in jeopardy.
5. Although Mayor Dale Ross is currently “the face” of green energy, remember that he was not Mayor in 2012 when the original agreement was implemented. He has, however, taken our city around the world, where over one billion people have heard the story of Georgetown and green energy. It has been estimated that this marketing value to the city is $40 to $60 million.
It is true that there is currently an additional $12.82 per month on the bill of residents of Georgetown. It is also true that, like all Power Cost Adjustments, it will rise and fall as energy costs fluctuate. When the hyperbole, accusations, and innuendo are separated from fact, isn’t it comforting to know that if you add up your electric, water, wastewater, trash, and real estate taxes, Georgetown is still the third least expensive city in Central Texas.
Finally, if $12.82 a month is still keeping you up at night, comfort yourself with these thoughts: Georgetown will continue to grow, alleviating this short-term hiccup in a long-term contract; and the cost of fossil fuels will rise—enjoy the $1.80/gallon gas while it lasts—making green energy profitable. You may agree or disagree with the principles of green energy; you cannot, however, disagree with the facts.