Austin City Council postpones vote on Austin Energy rate hike

Austin City Council has postponed a vote on an Austin Energy rate hike. This comes after they approved a $15 increase for a pass-through rate. Now they're considering increasing the base rate.

The base rate review process has been going on for eight months. Austin Energy has to do a review at least every five years to make sure the money they're bringing in is enough to cover the cost of service.

"The problem with the way the base rates are constructed right now is when they were adopted decades ago, they reflected a certain amount of energy consumption. That is not the energy consumption we're seeing in 2022," said Matt Mitchell, spokesperson for Austin Energy.

Many people shared their concerns in public comment.

"My house is set at 64 degrees because if I got it any higher than that, when it's 30 degrees outside, I'm going to not have a place to live," one public commenter said.

"When you raise that hike, this is what you're taking, this is food, you're taking it out of the mouths of a family for an entire week to feed," another public commenter said.

Austin Energy's proposal would mean about a $15 increase for the average customer.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool has a proposal that would bring the increase to about $9.

It has a gradual customer charge system over the next three years. It would also have four usage rate tiers instead of five. The customer charge, along with usage rate, makes up the base rate.

"There is never a perfect solution, but I do feel this proposal gets us really, really close," Pool said.

"Where we're at right now seems like the best compromise for what we're dealing with," District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly said. 

"I'm still concerned about those levels because they still seem to me to be a significant impact on the public," District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen said.

Austin Energy has a revenue requirement of $31.3 million. Some council members are also talking about ways to lower that.

"Anyone who has having trouble meeting their financial obligations, paying their bills, any of the utility bills for the City of Austin, reach out to City of Austin utilities, let's have a conversation. There are tools at our disposal to help with that, payment plans and the customer assistance program," Mitchell said.

There is expected to be a work session on Tuesday and a possible vote on Thursday.