Quick Turnaround Expected for Austin Energy Governance Study

Mar 22, 2013

The Austin City Council has approved a study of public energy utilities governed by an independent board. But the city will have to work quickly.

The item comes as the council looks to create an independent governing board for Austin Energy. The council has traditionally overseen the utility, but that was before Austin Energy’s recent rate increase, which created political pressure that some feel could ultimately deregulate the city-run utility. Now a council majority appears supportive of handing off day-to-day operations.

The goal is to get the study back by mid-April, at which time council may act to approve an independent governing board.

“My goal is to address the basic guts of the ordinance at that time, creating the independent board,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell, “so we don’t … create the perception that we’re trying to run out the clock on this.”

Should the independent board be approved in April, council would pass a separate resolution later this year outlining a transition.

Just what form that transition may take is outlined in a memo to the council from City Manager Marc Ott. Two out of three reporting structures he proposed have utility employees reporting to his office instead of a board. You can read the memo online.