Texas City Featured in Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Sequel’ Lost Millions in its Green Energy Gamble
Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller wrote a great article, which is a victory lap of sorts, about how the town of Georgetown, Texas, which was featured in former Vice President Al Gore’s underwhelming sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,” is losing millions of dollars after it proudly declared it would power itself with only wind and solar energy.
Georgetown’s bet against fossil fuel prices cost the city-owned utility nearly $7 million this year, and prompted officials to look for a way out of their long-term contracts for solar and wind energy.
“It’s costing them big time,” vice president of research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), Bill Peacock, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview. “This doesn’t appear to be the first time they’ve lost money, just the first time it was big enough to have to go public with it.”
According to Bastasch, Gore crowed “One thing that Georgetown demonstrates to other places that are just beginning to think about it is that the power supply is not only more affordable the cost is predictable for at least 25 years into the future and really beyond that.”
Standing next to Gore when he made those remarks was Mayor Dale Ross, the town’s Republican part-time mayor. Smithsonian magazine called Ross the “unlikeliest hero of the green revolution.”
“This is a long-term pocketbook issue,” Ross said in August. “It’s a win for economics and a win for the environment.”
Ross said the decision was based on dollars and cents, not environmental concerns, but now the city is trying to get to renegotiate its long-term green energy contracts.
This should be surprising to absolutely no one, because it isn’t even possible to run a city on 100 percent wind and solar unless people are willing to live without electricity for significant amounts of time. Bastasch reached out to the Ross, the Georgetown mayor, but the mayor cancelled the interview and would not respond to attempts to reschedule it.
Since being featured in Gore’s film, other media outlets have asked if Georgetown is the “future” of U.S. cities. However, Peacock said Georgetown is becoming more of a cautionary tale.
“They went all-in on one thing. Anybody looking at this from a financial standpoint could have foreseen these problems,” Peacock said. “This doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”
TPPF is suing Georgetown for the pricing details of its long-term solar contracts. Energy rates are considered trade secrets under Texas law and must be sought with a government records request.
Georgetown began its shift towards 100 percent wind and solar energy several years ago, and the city says it reached that goal in July after the Buckthorn solar plant went online. The city-owned utility contracts with Buckthorn and the Spinning Spur 3 wind farm for all its power needs.
Georgetown Utility Systems (GUS) contracted to buy wind and solar at fixed prices until 2035 and 2043, respectively. Georgetown is obligated to buy about twice as much power as it actually needs from green power plants. The city is first in Texas and second-largest in the U.S. to go 100 percent renewable.
Promises that wind and solar are hedges against rising fuel costs look pretty silly in retrospect because fuel prices have gone down in the last several years.
The idea was that Georgetown would have enough green power to grow into at fixed prices, avoiding market volatility and what they saw as the rising costs of fossil fuels. In the meantime, Georgetown would sell any excess power back to Texas’ electricity market.
But energy prices plummeted in recent years, particularly natural gas prices, meaning the city lost money selling power back to the market. Georgetown Budget Manager Paul Diaz told city councilors in late November the utility had lost $6.84 million. City officials are looking for ways to make up the shortfall.
“GUS is in the process of opening negotiations with our current energy suppliers to adjust the terms of our contracts,” City Councilman Steve Fought wrote in an email to constituents.
“Additionally, we are working to change our management strategy for daily energy market operations,” Fought wrote in his November 26th email. “We also need to implement belt tightening measures in the electric department and shift funds to balance the GUS accounts.”
Georgetown Utility Systems’ energy costs were more than $23 million over budget in 2016 and 2017, according to Lisa Linowes, the founder of the anti-wind power group Wind Action.
Fought did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment. Representatives for Gore also did not respond to TheDCNF’s inquiry.
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Renewable energy advocates claim wind and solar will save consumers money but everywhere that tries to incorporate these expensive and unreliable sources of energy into their systems incur rising costs. Hopefully someday we will wise up to the shell game and demand affordable energy.