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Once Hailed As A Renewable Mecca, Georgetown Hires Shell To Manage Its Energy Portfolio

Solar panels
Gabriel C. Pérez

The City of Georgetown earned international attention a few years ago by becoming the largest city in the U.S. to run completely on renewable power. Now, the city has chosen a subsidiary of Shell Oil to take over management of its energy holdings.

In 2015, when Georgetown went 100% renewable, it signed contracts for more electricity than it needed, hoping to sell the extra power back to the Texas grid for profit. Then energy prices fell; Georgetown lost money and needed to raise rates for its utility customers to cover the cost.

The city announced on Thursday its plan to outsource management of its electricity portfolio to Shell Energy North America, a subsidiary of the international oil company.

In a statement, Georgetown said Shell will develop “recommendations regarding how Georgetown’s energy is traded in the Texas energy market. They will also assist in forecasting energy needs, energy costs, and addressing challenges related to transmitting energy around the state, all of which affect the City’s costs associated with purchasing power.”

It was not immediately clear what the move means for Georgetown’s 100% renewable goal. But, earlier this year, the city sued solar energy company Buckthorn Westex to try to get out of a 25-year solar energy contract it had signed with the company.

The lawsuit alleges problems at a solar farm run by Buckthorn Westex contributed to Georgetown’s financial losses.

In a countersuit, Buckthorn Westex claims Georgetown is trying to make it a scapegoat for the city’s poor energy investment strategy.

“The City speculated with its residents’ funds, locking in agreements to purchase more power than it needed for decades at fixed prices with the expectation it could turn a profit,” the countersuit reads in part.

A call to the Georgetown city manager’s office was not returned Thursday.

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Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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