The Latest on the Push to Make Austin Energy Fossil Fuel Free

Austin skyline with a dirty smokestack in the background. Text: The latest on the push to make Austin Energy fossil fuel free

Original image courtesy of Al Braden

By Shane Johnson, Chapter Distributed Clean Energy Organizer

Recently several articles came out in the press about Austin Energy’s update to its Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan (“the Resource Plan” for short), along with an important statement from Austin Mayor Kirk Watson, and a flurry of meetings, discussions among activists, lots of calls for action, and general hand-wringing.

Everyone take a deep breath. It will all be alright.

We’re working around the clock to make sure the general public understands that despite some impasse among Austin Energy and City Council, we’re confident that we can uplift the community’s needs and perspective at the council-level. The people of Austin understand that in the middle of a worsening climate crisis, high prices, and an unstable grid, Austin deserves a safe, resilient, and clean energy future. Texas Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other partners are committed to ensuring we don’t compromise our values and vision of a public utility and energy plan that not only lead on climate, but are also accountable to the community’s needs.

What Happened? 

Like we previously discussed, for the past several months, the city-appointed Electric Utility Commission’s “Resource Planning Working Group” gathered together to put forward a recommended plan to update Austin Energy’s Resource Plan to 2035. The recommended plan was officially released on February 1st and was presented as part of the Electric Utility Commission’s last monthly meeting on February 12th. However, no action was taken, and Austin Energy announced it would need to take more time to assess the plan, react to it, and present its own series of recommendations. In the meantime, Austin City Council member Leslie Pool, the chair of the Austin Energy Oversight Committee, canceled the February 27th AE Oversight Committee meeting this week and indicated the next meeting should be in April, much later than originally expected. 

Then, two weeks ago, Mayor Kirk Watson put out a statement on his “Watson Wire” newsletter essentially saying Austin Energy’s expected version of the plan needed to be scrapped. The announcement conveyed that we need a new emphasis on closing down the dirty Fayette coal plant before January of 2029 to be the focus of any plan, and “scrub all other options.” Essentially the Mayor seemed to be saying, hey let’s slow down and refocus. 

This resulted in a series of articles in the press appearing in local newspapers and on television, primarily covering the mayor’s push to re-emphasize the coal plant closure.

What Does It All Mean? 

Effectively it means the deadline set by a December 2022 city resolution that called for an update to the Austin Energy Resource Plan by the end of the First Quarter of 2024 will not be met, and an update will occur later than originally planned (no additional council action is needed). Taking a bit more time to adopt an update to the Resource Plan is an approach Sierra Club is ok with because it is better to get a good clean energy plan adopted rather than a rushed plan, especially with a utility that seemed dedicated to building a new gas plant. 

We need to make sure our public utility’s approach aligns with our community’s values, is transparent, and is built from a foundation of community input—like the recommended plan from the Resource Planning Working Group. Climate change is a crisis that needs the right solution that addresses its severity and its inequities, not just the fastest option. Many people face unaffordable electric bills right now, so programs and goals addressing reliability, energy savings and lowering bills, and shutting Fayette even faster than 2029 are priorities for this year

At the next Electric Utility Commission (EUC) meeting on Monday, March 18th, the EUC is expected to discuss creating a new timeline for adopting a plan this year. They may move some elements of the plan forward to the City Council for approval now, but they can also take a little more time to finalize the full plan without delaying past this year. Now is the time to ensure our clean energy future is resilient, affordable, and meets the challenges of any weather!

On top of showing up to the EUC, City Council members themselves need to hear directly that we want a good clean energy plan that gets us fossil fuel free by 2035 (or sooner) and that builds on previous work to increase the use of renewables, energy efficiency, demand response and battery storage, as well as improving power lines. We’ve seen Mayors and City Councilmembers come and go, but the people are the bedrock of our community and Austin’s climate goals. While politicians have voted and committed to shutting down Fayette before—it hasn’t happened yet. The community has always and continues to lead on fighting climate change and for justice. The people know the solutions to these injustices because we live through the impacts. Where we’re informed and organized we make this change possible. Join us to make sure we have clean, affordable, reliable energy as soon as possible, a safe grid, and no more air pollution in East Austin or carbon-emissions from our City’s power sector.

Please consider coming to the EUC meeting on Monday, March 18th and future EUC and City Council meetings related to Austin Energy’s resource plan. We will keep you informed about upcoming opportunities! 

Want to learn more or get involved? Please contact our clean energy organizer Shane Johnson at

The next EUC meeting is Monday, March 18, 2024,  6:00 PM Austin Energy Headquarters/Shudde Fath Conference Room, 4815 Mueller Blvd, Austin, Texas

Public comment will be allowed in-person or remotely by telephone. Speakers may only register to speak on an item once either in-person or remotely and will be allowed up to three minutes to provide their comments. Registration no later than noon the day before the meeting is required for remote participation. To register contact Robin Otto, at or via phone at 512-322-6254.