Our opinion: AU makes good on its word

Published 6:30 am Saturday, April 24, 2021

With the knowledge of incoming price hike, Austin Utilities makes moves to reduce impact


Earlier this week, Austin Utilities announced it had a plan in place that would help reduce the blow that is coming to customer bills in May as a result of the February winter storm that devastated parts of the south, particularly Texas.

What followed was a disruption in natural gas to the Midwest, including Minnesota, resulting in a looming punch to our bills.

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Austin Utilities vowed to do what it could to help make sure the blows, which could amount to hundreds of dollars in increases, were manageable. And they delivered.

The Austin Utilities Board cleared the way by authorizing use of reserves to stem the cost of acquiring natural gas. They also are making it possible to pay off the difference over seven months rather than right away.

In their release, Austin Utilities laid out what households and businesses could face in the coming months when they get their May bills:

• Average Residential Impact – $191 (based on 165 ccf) or $27.29 for 7 months (May-Nov) – Rate Structure 110/111

• Average Small Commercial Impact – $671 (based on 579 ccf) or $95.86 for 7 months (May- Nov) – Rate Structure 210/211

• Average Large Commercial Impact – $6,467 (based on 5582 ccf) or $808 for 7 months (May- Nov) – Rate Structure 410/411

This situation is not what anybody wanted. Nobody wants extra money placed on a bill, but we commend Austin Utilities for working hard to ensure it wasn’t a worse case scenario. When it was originally announced that customers would be facing this, it was estimated that bills could reach $400 or more.

In Texas, people were looking at paying thousands more.

“I think all things considered, what we were able to do is buy gas at what was a high price, but were able to limit the amount we did buy,” said Austin Utilities Executive Director Mark Nibaur. “The board made the decision of using cash reserves that we have for some of these situations and spreading it out over seven months. The cost challenge was definitely lessened for customers.”

We agree wholeheartedly. This could have been worse and so we will take less than ideal.