Austin Energy recognized as Utility of the Year

Public power utility Austin Energy has been recognized by Smart Cities Dive as the 2017 Utility of the Year.

The publication noted that its awards “recognize the industry’s top disruptors and innovators” and that the cities, companies, and trends recognized through the awards “are transforming urban landscapes and shaping the future.”

In the Dec. 4 article detailing Austin Energy’s accomplishments, Smart Cities Dive said that the utility has elevated the city of Austin, Texas, “to an exemplary status of how metropolitan areas around the nation can execute smart advancements while maintaining a broad understanding of citizen needs.”

“This year alone, Austin Energy has worked to set ambitious clean energy goals, add storage, support distributed generation and electric vehicles, and advance customer service offerings — all while restoring power in areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” wrote Smart Cities Dive Editor Kristin Musulin.

“This is a significant recognition for Austin Energy that was made possible by our talented, creative and dedicated employees,” said Jackie Sargent, Austin Energy General Manager. “Everything we do at Austin Energy is customer driven and community focused. We are always looking for innovative solutions that deliver better service and make Austin a more livable city.”

Among other things, the story highlighted Austin Energy’s recent launch of new mobile communication tools for customers to use when the power goes out. The new tools include a mobile-friendly outage map, proactive text messages that provide updates to customers, and the ability to report outages via text message.

As with many public power utilities across the United States, Austin Energy is actively engaged in a number of distributed energy resource projects.

Austin Energy is participating in a U.S. Department of Energy-funded initiative known as the Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV, or SHINES, project. The project will integrate solar power, energy storage, smart inverters, forecasting tools, market signals, advanced communications, and a software optimization platform.

Elaina Ball, chief operating officer at Austin Energy, discussed the project at a recent energy industry conference held in Austin.

Smart Cities Dive noted Austin’s drive to increase access to solar. In January, residents of the city were given the option of joining the utility’s community solar program. Additional information about Austin Energy’s solar offerings is available here.

The utility is also moving to add wind power to its energy supply portfolio. In August, Austin Energy said that it would receive an additional 200 megawatts of Texas wind power as a result of an agreement recently reached with Portland, Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables LLC.

Austin Energy has set a renewable energy target of 65 percent by 2027, “one of the most ambitious clean energy goals in the nation,” the article said.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Austin Energy cut the ribbon on Electric Drive, a transportation and charging hub aimed at supporting the city's thriving electric vehicle infrastructure.

Located in downtown Austin, Electric Drive is powered entirely by renewable energy sources, Austin Energy said.

The article said that the city “has already expressed an interest in expanding its fleet of city-owned electric vehicles, and efforts will surely be made toward reaching targets for renewables. If Austin Energy continues to leverage more technologically-advanced initiatives to increase communication and connectivity, it will maintain its status as a role model municipal utility in years to come.”