⚡2 reasons why Austin Energy is in hot water
Austin Energy Fiscal Year 2023 Report
- 5 min read

⚡2 reasons why Austin Energy is in hot water

Plus, a graph on how much rain has fallen in Austin in 2024 so far.

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Introduction

☀️ G'morning, Austin.

We somehow only have 2 weeks left of March. Don't know how that happened. 😵‍💫

Anywho, today we'll give you a rundown on why our city's utility is in the spotlight.

Then, read about how SXSW featured chatter on psychedelics and check out a graph that shows how much rain we've gotten so far this year.


A coal plant's closing long overdue

If you live in Austin, you pay your monthly electric bill to Austin Energy. 

The publicly-owned electric utility powers our apartments, fire stations, the margarita machines at De Nada, etc.

And as the city’s population continues to balloon, Austinites will reaaally need to find it reliable for years to come. 

But it’s in a pickle at the moment, for a couple of reasons. Let’s get into it.

All eyes on Fayette 

Since 2020, Mayor Kirk Watson and the city have been pushing Austin Energy to shutter its portion of the 45-year-old Fayette Power Project, a coal-burning plant that it co-runs with the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Why? 

It’s one of 15 fossil-fuel plants in Texas, and the city wants to be a mean, green fightin’ machine. The plant represents 25% of the city’s overall emissions, according to Mayor Watson. 

It also requires a TON of water to run — we’re talking enough to fuel an entire town, like Pflugerville. Which is a no-no in a metro area that’s drought-prone and pondering how it will supply water to all of its inhabitants in the future.

But pulling out of Fayette has proven tricky for a number of reasons: 

💡The LCRA, a state legislature-created entity, doesn’t have the same clean energy incentives that city-owned Austin Energy does. Austin Energy was supposed to exit Fayette in 2022 but said that didn’t happen because it couldn’t agree on a closure plan with LCRA (LCRA has told various media outlets that it’ll keep running the plant, even if Austin pulls out).

💡Plus, this coal plant has made Austin Energy some major moolah. The utility sells power created by Fayette to ERCOT and, last summer, ERCOT changes made coal plants even more profitable. If that money went away, costs would be passed to customers. The Texas Tribune has a great in-depth explainer on the issue. 

💡As for sheer output, Fayette is Austin Energy’s only coal plant and generated 11% of its energy capacity in 2023.

Austin Energy Fiscal Year 2023 Report

The latest in the saga: Last month, Mayor Watson said he wants Austin completely out of Fayette by 2029. 

And now, Austin Energy’s grand 2030 plan is on hold.

Big picture, Austin wants to be net-zero by 2040

Working toward that goal, Austin Energy had devised a plan to be carbon-free by 2030. The utility had outlined how it would generate enough energy — and do so greenly  — within a decade. 

But Austin City Council recently put that plan on hold, asking Austin Energy to … er …  do some more homework. They’ve tasked Austin Energy to work with the Electric Utility Commission on updates to the plan. 

Among the biggest hurdles, per a memo from Austin Energy GM Bob Kahn: It will take “years of planning and development work” to get any new source of energy operational. 

The utility also doubled down on its goal in the memo: Work out how to provide clean, reliable, affordable energy. 

Easy peasy. 

And they’re not giving up on saying goodbye to Fayette — Khan said they’ll keeping working toward an agreement with LCRA (good luck with that 👀).

— Katie Canales, Editor


Temperature: 66 degrees | Sun: Halfsies | What to Expect: Cool and breezy

After the excitement of SXSW, Spring Break and St. Patrick's Day, it's time to face reality. A cold front has brought cooler temperatures and breezy north winds, which unfortunately means more oak pollen is flying around.

Mary’s Tip: Stock up on the allergy medicine this week … while cedar pollen is winding down, all other tree pollens are ramping up.


🍄 The psychedelic boom is coming … to an artist/mom/veteran near you.

“If you’re in this room, you should be using drugs,” Gabrielle Pelicci, a professor of Holistic Medicine, told a full room at SXSW last week. Her Fueling our Imagination & Creativity with Psychedelics talk took listeners on a trip through humanity’s history with psychedelics as well as Pelicci’s own. 

Psychedelics are nothing new at SXSW, and this year’s psychedelic tracks covered everything from medical advances and end-of-life care to fueling creativity and mushrooms for moms

But as more and more people, researchers and psychiatrists experiment with psychedelics, are federal regulators keeping up? 

As Hearst columnist Chris Tomlinson reported, MDMA — also known as Ecstasy or Molly — is the most promising psychedelic for medicinal use at the moment. And while it’s still listed as a Schedule 1 drug with no  "safe, accepted medical use" by the Drug Enforcement Agency, change could be around the corner. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve MDMA for use with traditional talk therapy as early as August. 

Read Tomlinson’s full article for more about the current state of psychedelics in Texas and beyond.

— Cat DeLaura, Reporter


Austin is wetter than normal — for now

Talk about 2023 being a dry spell: Austin this year recorded its fifth-wettest January.

That put the city on the road to recovery from the intense drought that lingered into winter. Along with an additional boost of moisture in February, Austin so far has logged 7.25 inches of rain since Jan. 1. Woof.

Rob Villalpando/Austin Daily; National Weather Service

But you see those flat areas in the chart above? That's when we saw days with trace amounts or zero rain, which means downpours have been brief and the rainfall surplus is shrinking.

A month ago, Austin's total rainfall for 2024 was about 3.5 inches above normal. That margin is now only about 1.5 inches above normal for the year to date.

So hopefully that whole "April showers bring May flowers" saying comes through this year.

— Rob Villalpando, Contributing Editor


Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Cat DeLaura, Mary Wasson and Rob Villalpando.