Nov 30, 2022 - News

City Council weighs another Austin Energy bill hike

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill stylized as an electric symbol.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Conservation-minded retirees Dale and Pat Bulla do everything they can to keep their bills down — they paid a mere $10.83 per month for electricity last year in their Northwest Austin home — but a key Austin City Council decision on Thursday could ballon that utility charge.

The big picture: Austin Energy has proposed a service hike driven chiefly by the higher costs of natural gas.

  • The city-owned utility has also floated eliminating the current tiered rate structure that encourages conservation.

Details: The utility proposes raising the monthly service fee from $10 to $25.

  • In October, the Austin City Council added $15 a month to the typical resident's bill through fuel and regulatory charges.

Zoom in: The Bullas — Dale is 76 and a retired school teacher; Pat is 80 and a retired university instructor — live in the Jester subdivision.

  • Their home sports plenty of south- and north-facing windows to catch the low-flying winter sun. However, to reduce the amount of direct sunlight, it has a few that face east and none that face west. The windows, which cost almost $20,000, use a special glass to block out heat.
  • Shade trees, high efficiency heating and air-conditioning units, ceiling fans, a programmable thermostat, solar panels and a metal roof that reflects sunlight contribute to their energy savings.
  • They also drive a Tesla.
Dale Bulla at a cafe.
Dale Bulla, at Once Over cafe earlier this month. He came with a printout of his household's water and electricity use, left, and homemade scones. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

By the numbers: That monthly bill could triple, to more than $30 per month, once the rate hike settles out.

What they're saying: "We're fixed income, we're retired and we want to save money — and we want to leave a livable planet to the next generation, so we try to conserve as much as we can. We don't think we should be penalized for that."

What we're watching: How the Austin City Council squares balance sheet demands and community values.


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