Thursday, May 23, 2013

New Substation To Serve Eastern Travis County

Austin Energy crews and contractors have been busily at work constructing the new Dunlap substation in far eastern Travis County to get portions ready for this summer.

The substation is being built in phases over the next two years to serve growth and help relieve transmission congestion on the statewide grid. The substation will serve both transmission and distribution needs and will include the largest autotransformer ever for Austin Energy at 672 megawatts (MW), 30 feet tall and weighing almost 500 tons. An autotransformer steps-down high voltage coming in from power plants. By contrast, the second largest autotransformer in the Austin Energy system is 480 MW.

The substation also will include a 30 MW transformer to support distribution of power to Austin neighborhoods.

Visit our photo album of crews in action on the substation construction site.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Austin Area Students Win at International Science Fair

From left to right:
Casey Hicks, Leah Powers, London Bolsius, Jahan Rabii, Jessica Wang, Alex Crisara, Advaith Anand, Lily Xu, Susan Xu, Vanna Hovanky
Ten students, representing six “Best of Fair” science projects from the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival (AERSF), traveled to Phoenix, AZ, last week to participate in the Intel International Science and Engineering fair (Intel ISEF).

Intel ISEF, the world’s largest pre-collegiate science competition, played host to more than 1,600 students from the US and 70 foreign countries or territories. The students competed in 17 science categories for 1st through 4th category places, as well as more than 30 Special Awards from universities, government agencies and professional associations.

London Bolsius, a Sophomore from Round Rock High School, won a 1st place special award and $2,500 from SPIE-The International Society for Optical Engineering; His project,”3D Scanner,” was awarded a second place and $1,500 in the Computer category of International. As a result, London will have an asteroid named in his honor – a distinction given to all 1st and 2nd place category winners at Intel ISEF, putting him in the same category as Albert Einstein, Madame Curie and - - the Beatles.

Jahan Rabii and Alex Crisara, a Junior and a Senior respectively from Anderson High School in Austin, won a 2nd place special award and $2,000 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and $3,000 in stocks from the United Technologies Corporation. Their team project, “Algae-Based Life Support for Long Duration Spaceflight”, also placed third in the competition category of Engineering: Materials and  Bioengineering, winning them another $1,000 in prize money.

Other AERSF students who attended Intel ISEF were Casey Hicks and Leah Powers, Seniors from Vista Ridge High School in Leander who competed in the Biochemistry category with a project that investigated natural remedies for antibiotic resistant bacteria; Jessica Wang, Lily Xu (Juniors - Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin) and Susan Xu (Junior- Kingwood High, Houston) developed a Cellular and Molecular Biology project that predicts more accurately whether patients with the cystic fibrosis gene will actually develop the disease; Vanna Hovanky (Junior - Bowie High School, Austin) studied a colon cancer fighting mechanism in Microbiology; and Advaith Anand (Junior - Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Austin), also in Engineering: Materials and  Bioengineering found new materials for separating natural gas from liquids, rendering it usable more efficiently.

The Austin Energy Regional Science Festival is one of the largest of 14 regional science fairs across Texas. It serves 23 Central Texas school districts and is one of only a few regional fairs that include elementary school students. Austin Energy is the organizer and main sponsor of the fair. Other industry sponsors include Intel, BAE Systems, Synopsys (whose travel grant paid for the students’ trip to Intel ISEF), Oransi, Compass Learning, the City of Austin’ Office of Sustainability, Tokyo Electron, the LCRA, Austin Water and the Travis County Medical Alliance.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Join The New Power Partner Thermostat Program

More than 1,000 Austin Energy customers have already signed up for our new Power Partner Thermostat program, which kicked off in May.

How It Works
Austin Energy customers first purchase any of the qualifying Wi-Fi-capable thermostats from retail outlets or heating and air conditioning companies. These thermostats enable you to control your air conditioning and heating via smart phones or online any time and from anywhere. Then, once a qualifying thermostat has been installed, sign up for the Austin Energy Power Partner program and the $85 rebate through the thermostat company’s website.

In return for the $85 rebate, customers agree to allow Austin Energy (via the Internet) to raise thermostat settings a few degrees typically between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on about 15 days over the summer when energy use in Texas is high. These load reduction events never occur on weekends or holidays.

Thermostats that qualify customers for the Austin Energy program are: Nest Learning Thermostat (available at Lowe’s and Treehouse stores), EnergyHub Filtrete 3M Radio-Thermostat (available at Home Depot), ecobee Smart and Smart Si Thermostats (available through heating and air conditioning companies) and Radio Thermostats CT30 and CT80 (available online at Images of the thermostats are below.

Load Reduction Reduces Electric Bills

Reducing electricity demand during peak demand periods in Texas saves all Austin Energy customers on their electric bills. It limits the need for Austin Energy to buy additional power during the hottest summer afternoon when market power prices can be 50 times higher than normal. The 1,000 customers already signed up for the program represent potential energy savings of up to a megawatt of power. A megawatt of power for an hour this summer in Texas could cost as much as $100,000 at peak market prices. Purchased power costs are recovered on the electric bill of every electric customer.

Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostats Help You Save

WI-FI-capable thermostats can help customers reduce air conditioning and heating costs. Some of the qualifying thermostats have motion and light sensors, which allow them to automatically raise temperature settings slightly when the home is empty and lights are out.

Residential customers with questions about the new Power Partner Thermostat program: Call 512-482-5346 or email

 NEST (above)





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Utility Bill Scam Continues

City of Austin utility customers, including small businesses, continue to report either getting telephone calls or individuals walking into their businesses claiming they are overdue on their City of Austin utility bill and unless they pay immediately, utility services will be disconnected.

No City of Austin personnel or City contract personnel in the field ever collect payments for utility services or any other City of Austin service. This applies to any City of Austin employee, including those with Austin Energy, Austin Water, Austin Resource Recovery or any other City department. Also, remember, any City of Austin employee should always have their City ID. Should you be approached by anyone demanding a payment for City of Austin services, call the City of Austin Customer Service Center at 512-494-9400.

In the case of telephone calls, scammers demanding payment on utility accounts are asking for credit card information, or they suggest the customer go buy a money card in the amount owed and call back with the card number.

The City of Austin will never ask for credit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.

In general, any customer who receives a call asking for financial information should always decline and call the entity in question using telephone numbers provided by the entity. The telephone number for the City of Austin Customer Service Center is 512-494-9400.

Likewise, if a customer receives a call from the City of Austin regarding a utility bill, the number on the customer’s telephone caller ID will always be 494-9400. If the customer sees another number, they should hang up and call 494-9400 to inquire if there is a question regarding their account.

Making Payments

City of Austin utility customers who wish to make a utility bill payment by credit card can do so online at or by calling (800) 959-7063. That telephone number connects the customer to the City of Austin’s automated utilities payment service (Bill Matrix) which allows the customer to make a payment via credit or debit card or electronic check. There is a fee for payment of a City of Austin utility bill by credit card. The fee goes to the credit card processor, not to the City of Austin.
Customers can pay City of Austin utility bills in a number of ways. There are two City of Austin walk-in customer service centers, which are open Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.:

Utility Customer Service Center (east branch)
Rosewood-Zaragosa Center
2800 Webberville Road
Austin, Texas 78702

Utility Customer Service Center (north branch)
8716 Research Blvd, Suite 115
(near Ohlen Road and Highway 183)
Austin, Texas 78758

City of Austin utility customers can also make utility bill payments at the customer service counters of virtually any Austin HEB, ACE Cash Express and Money Box.

Citizens who receive a telephone inquiry demanding financial information such as credit card numbers for any reason, should report the call to Austin 3-1-1 as a non-emergency report that will go to the Austin Police Department.

Proposed Austin Energy Governance Ordinance Second Reading Scheduled

The Austin City Council is scheduled May 23 for a second reading on a proposed ordinance to form an Electric Utility Board to oversee the business of Austin Energy. 

Under the proposed ordinance, a subcommittee of Council Members would nominate members for Council approval to the board based on expertise in areas such as the electric utility industry, rate making, engineering, finance, community service or activism and environmental science and policy. The Council could not appoint one of its own members to the board. Under the proposed ordinance, all board actions would require Council review and adoption. Under the proposal, the electric utility would be managed and operated by the general manager, who could be appointed by, would report to, and could be removed by the City Manager.

The proposed ordinance is available for viewing or downloading:

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Downtown Library Site Powered Up

Austin Energy linemen recently rerouted five underground power lines and installed 5,000 linear feet of new cable on the site of the New Central Library near the former Seaholm Power Plant. The linemen completed the work in time to ready the site for a May 30th groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the $90 million, 198,000-square-foot library and also to provide electricity to the former Seaholm Intake Facility across the street, which will be reused for a public purpose on the shores of Lady Bird Lake.

 The New Central Library site is between the former Seaholm Power Plant and former Green Water Treatment Plant, scheduled for redevelopment.

 Austin Energy linemen use reels to install new cable as well as take out old cable that is being replaced. The reels can each hold 1,200 linear feet of cable.

Austin Energy linemen pull out old cable from underground that will no longer be used, because new lines had to be reconfigured as part of the New Central Library site construction.

  Crew members worked in underground vaults to install equipment necessary to power-up the new library construction site. Much of the downtown power grid is underground to increase reliability and aesthetics.

Crew members prepare to begin installing power lines in an underground vault.

 The linemen rerouted five power circuits underground to ready the site for construction of the New Central Library.