Climate change is happening now and local governments must play a significant role in reducing emissions and helping people cope with the impacts. Austin has existing climate commitments and has made progress in expanding its use of renewable energy, but many challenges remain.

On October 16, Solar Austin, 350 Austin, Earth Day Austin, and Shades of Green are hosting a City Council Climate & Energy Forum for City Council candidates from Districts 1 & 3 to speak to Austinites about their climate change and energy priorities. These candidates will be joining us for the forum:
City Council District 1: Natasha Harper-Madison, Lewis Conway Jr, Vincent Harding, Mariana Salazar, Reedy Spigner III, Mitrah Avini
City Council District 3: Pio Renteria, Susana Almanza, Amit Motwani, Justin Jacobson

Tuesday, October 16, 2018 @ 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Climate and Energy Candidate Forum – Austin City Council Districts 1 & 3

Dickey-Lawless Auditorium at Huston-Tillotson University
900 Chicon St, Austin, Texas 78702

Directions & Parking:
Please park in the Huston-Tillotson lot on Chalmers Ave (#25 on the map), directly across from the west entrance to campus. The auditorium is in building #1 on the map, just a short walk across campus from the west entrance. The parking is free and open, no permit required. Visitor parking on campus is very limited and must be arranged ahead of time as needed.

All candidates were required to respond to a written questionnaire in order to participate. Their answers are available below. Click on a candidate’s name to read their responses.
 

City Council District 1

Natasha Harper-Madison
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Currently, emissions are permitted by our city’s land use and transportation patterns which are fundamentally unsustainable. Electric cars and other technological solutions can help, but we can achieve a much greater reduction in carbon emissions by stopping sprawl and building a compact, connected city with walkable, transit-accessible communities.
1. We need a new, simplified land development code that encourages our growth to transition from a car-centric design to a people-centric design and facilitates pedestrian friendly streets and public transportation.
2. I will work to improve transit service by making riding the bus more accessible and a more attractive option to all Austinites.
3. I will work with the development community to increase close proximity co-working options near all types of new housing and included on property as amenities driven development in multifamily development projects.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I will be diligent and intentional about monitoring the future planning of Austin Energy by way of RMC and other energy specific boards and commissions appointments and open communications. Addiotionally, I look forward to working alongside local climate reality leaders to deploy the most effective strategies to achieve this goal. Lastly, it’s of the utmost importance that we recruit and engage the youngest and brightest minds in our city to innovate alongside veterans who have been fighting this fight to free ourselves from fossil fuel power generation for decades.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Absolutely. No one benefits from energy savings more than low income consumers, who allocate a much higher portion of their income toward energy than middle and high income earners. However, there are barriers to low income residents accessing these long term cost savings, like high-upfront installation costs, housing type, and lack of information and time.

Low income Austinites live in a variety of housing types, many not suitable for solar installation like multi-family housing and older homes, and more than half of Austin Energy customers are renters and have limited access to rooftop solar. Policies should address the range and not just one segment of housing type. We need to further invest in community solar farms that partner with the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to power the homes of low-income residents at a discounted rate – no solar installation required.

Additionally, we need to collaborate with community partners and providers to create a successful community outreach program that is promoted citywide to ensure greater buy-in and program enrollment.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
As previously mentioned, I absolutely support the expansion of utility investment programs within Austin Energy territory. Investing in programs like Community Solar provides access to clean, renewable, energy to all our resident regardless of housing type or income.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As a climate reality leader, I understand and fully appreciate the dangers of our rapidly changing climate. It is important to recognize that I also appreciate the finite resources we have as a city, including our ability to respond to impacts of climate change. As a city, land–use is arguably the most pervasive force driving the degradation of our ecosystems. Our outdated land development code mandates unsustainable land use and transportation patterns that increase emissions and exposure to flood hazards.

Lewis Conway, Jr.
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Transportation​ (nearly 28.5 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Electricity production​ (28.4 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Industry​ (22 percent of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions)
Recommendation: I​n regards to East Austin and District 1, the best plan forward is one advocated for by PODER and T.EJ.A.S.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I pledge to seek total adherence to the mission, scope, and responsibilities of relevant advisory committees guidelines established in 2013:
● strategic and generation plans;
● major capital purchases or transactions;
● rates, annual budgets, the general fiand transfer and any other utility transfers;
● financial policies and the financial status of the utility;
● the sale and/or lease of utility property;
● AE programs for low-income customers;
● energy efficiency and solar programs;
● customer protection;
● fuel hedging and related financial strategies;
● key accounts and special tariffs; and
● competitive matters.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Absolutely. In fact, we can utilize lakes and waterways (Decker Lake) during off-peak season as a way to supplement our current system. The methodology I propose is a system of floating solar power plants that generate solar photovoltaic (PV) power.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Absolutely, rebates and credits should be used to incentivize consumers to seek solar solutions.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
We are advocating that COA develop an environmental justice strategy that lists programs, policies, planning and public participation processes, enforcement and/or rulemakings related to human health or the environment that should be revised to
(1) promote enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in areas with minority populations and low-income populations;
(2) ensure greater public participation;
(3) improve research and data collection relating to the health of and environment of minority populations and low-income populations; and
(4) identify differential patterns of consumption of natural resources among minority populations.
Include in the Strategy, where appropriate, a timetable for undertaking identified revisions and consideration of economic and social implications of the revisions.

Mariana Salazar
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Carbon emissions cause catastrophic and extreme weather events, and in Austin, we see the effects of climate change in flash floods, droughts & rising heat. To reduce carbon emissions, as a council member, I will support reducing usage of fossil fuels, reducing the reliance of single occupancy vehicles, and reducing waste in landfills.
● Energy from fossil fuel sources is one of our largest carbon emissions causing climate change. Texas leads the nation in wind power production and we should harness that energy. At the same time we should do it in a fashion that is affordable and makes energy accessible to owners and renters alike. Smaller cities like Georgetown are going fossil free, we can too. Austin Energy’s Resource Generation and Climate Protection Plan studies the possibility of going carbon free by 2030. I look forward to their findings and working with the community, Austin Energy and my fellow Council members to find a way to transition away from fossil fuels by 2030.
● Automobiles are our next largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from carbon combustion. In our transportation planning, we need to build better public transit to reduce our reliance on single occupancy vehicles and vehicles miles traveled and electrifying our transportation to use more electric vehicles in the city fleet & electric buses by CAPMETRO. We should increase opportunities for teleworking, carpooling and vanpooling to reduce the number of vehicles emitting harmful gases. In our land use planning, we need to reduce sprawl and develop in a compact manner to allow for shorter commutes and allow our green spaces to flourish that help clean our air and water.
● The third area of focus should be reducing waste in the landfills. Landfills emit carbon dioxide and methane. I would work towards designing programs that make Austin reuse, recycle and compost to reduce our carbon footprint at residential, commercial and industrial scales.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
Energy from fossil fuel sources is one of our largest sources of carbon emissions causing climate change. While we should work towards that goal of phasing out fossil fuels, we should do it in a fashion that is affordable and makes energy accessible to owners and renters alike.
Smaller cities like Georgetown are going fossil free, and for then is much simpler as they only have to deal with one contract/supplier. I will work to ensure Austin takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels by:

Supporting the closing of the coal-fired Fayette Power Plant
Burning coal for energy causes air pollution that leads to negative health impacts like respiratory disorders. Coal plants also use a large amount of water which is a limited resource in Central Texas. I support the 2025 Plan directing Austin Energy to “strive to retire its share of the Fayette Power Project as soon as legally, economically and technologically possible. While Austin Energy should continue to talk with LCRA about retiring Units 1 and 2 as soon as economically and technologically feasible, Austin Energy will explore negotiation with LCRA for control of one unit to chart a path toward an early retirement of Austin Energy’s share of Fayette starting in 2022.

● Holding Austin Energy accountable for implementing the Austin Energy Resource Generation and Climate Protection Plan.

● Ensuring we continue to have a municipal electric utility company which enable us to have high renewable energy power supply (higher than California) and enable us to keep residential rates low, including rate that low-income customers can pay.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
I recognize that installing solar panels is not cheap and it’s hard for low-income families to be able to prepay it when the payback period can be as much as 10-12 years. I also recognize that we all benefit from solar power regardless of who owns it. I support expanding access to the community solar programs – beyond the Palmer Events Center and La Loma – to a much broader audience so more customers can sign up to have solar power. Austin Energy has developed programs like Green Choice for our community to participate in the wind energy program and a community solar program for our community to participate in solar energy production. The design of this program allows owners but also multi-family housing tenants to participate. AE also has various customer assistance programs that aid low income or other vulnerable populations. These are great examples of programs we can expand upon.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
I would want to learn more about it’s trade off, costs and alternative investments, but in general, I would support the expansion of utility investment programs for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Austin has been a leader in climate protection locally and both regionally. I am proud of Austin’s affirmed commitment to the Paris Climate accord despite the Federal Government withdrawing support.

Moving forward I support:
● Continuing to be a leader in climate change
● Energy storage
● Growing our housing supply so we can make austin a place that people can continue to move to and keep it affordable so we can welcome climate refugees.
● Planning better emergency preparation together with friends and neighbors across the state, including having identified spaces in advance where climate refugees can seek shelter right after a weather event.

Due to climate change we will see increasing events of heavy precipitation. Coupled with development that has allowed an increase in impervious cover, Austin will see more intense and frequent flash floods. We have seen the Memorial Day flooding, Halloween flood and witnessed what Houston went through with Harvey. To avoid loss of property and lives due to such events we should explore:
● Implementing green stormwater infrastructure like rain gardens, bioswales etc. to increase runoff infiltration.
● Reducing impervious cover by growing in a compact manner, changing sizes and designs of parking lots, reduce parking requirements, and making other land use changes that allow us to reduce negative impacts of floods.
● Implementing buyout programs for properties in the floodplain.
● Acquiring land or conservation easements on property in critical areas in the watershed to maintain the infiltration capacity and reduce flood impacts downstream.

And while events of heavy precipitation increase, they will be interspersed with longer bouts of drought and increasing average temperatures, with more days above 100 F.
● We need to protect our water supply that is surface water reservoirs that lose more water to evaporation in the summer than used by the city of Austin as a whole. We can do this by diversifying our water supply source using alternate waters like rainwater harvesting, stormwater harvesting, graywater and blackwater at building, community and city scale. We can also have new storage options like aquifer storage and recovery to limit loss of
water due to evaporation.
● Drought and increasing temperatures also lead to negative impacts on our environment and ecosystem. We should plant more drought resistant landscapes that can whether the climate impacts of Central Texas.
● Droughts and increasing temperatures increase the risk of wildfire. We have seen the devastating effects of wildfires in Bastrop in 2011. We need to follow best practices in property management and have a really well designed emergency management program to respond to such situations.

Vincent Harding
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
Expand transportation opportunities so that we as a city can move away from the one person one car model, which is unsustainable and a massive emitter of greenhouse gasses. We have to ensure that this expanded transportation is equitable and accessible, so that people don’t feel it is necessary to own a vehicle, which can also be a barrier to employment and affordable living. Secondly, commit to and continue to expand our local solar options. More incentives for local and rooftop solar, which could include incentives for developers to include solar in their projects. Look at a program that includes solar for any future City of Austin developments, from affordable housing to public works projects. Thirdly, make sure we are on target to phase out the use of coal and natural gas plants as our energy source. Whether by increased investment in battery capacity, city owned renewables, or purchasing more renewable energy, we must commit to phasing out the current fossil fuel sources we use.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
It is important that we maintain and continue to commit to our goals to phase out the use of fossil fuels for power generation, whether it be the Decker Power Plant or the Fayette Coal-Fired Power Plant. As a council member, I would ensure that Austin energy is meeting our set goals and deadlines. If they are not meeting deadlines as set, I will push for the council to be more aggressive in it’s push to phase out fossil fuels.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes. A main tenet of my campaign is equitability, and leaving low income residents and those in multi family housing out of existing solar programs is a problem. Climate change affects us all, and too often it is the poor and marginalized who have to pay the highest price when it comes to environmental degradation. Over 25 percent of residents in District 1 live in poverty, so we cannot force these residents to adopt something they cannot afford. If it is possible to incentivize low or no cost solar development in District 1, perhaps with public private partnerships or non-profit sources, I would welcome the opportunity.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes. We need to continue to expand local solar with incentives. The FY 18-19 budget has $5,000,000 line itemed for local solar, and we need to maintain that program going forward. If we are not hitting our goals, such as 100 MW by the end of 2025 for local solar, look at expanding that program.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As we do in many areas, we can lead by example. Climate change affects everyone, everywhere. If the city can get to 100% renewables, and can do so in a cost effective, and equitable manner, we can lead other cities in doing so as well. Austin can create the blueprint that other large cities can use to fight climate change. At the same time, we are already seeing, and will continue to see the effects of climate change. We are currently voting for a bond that deals with flood water management, directly as a consequence of intense storms. It will be better and healthier for our city in the long run to lead the way in this arena, because climate change cannot be solved on an island. We must show the other Texas cities what can be done, and guide them in doing it as well. As for preparing for displacement, we have to look to the future. The decisions we make now must be looking, 20-30 years ahead. Whether it be housing, transportation, or energy, if we look ahead and anticipate these challenges, we won’t look back at now as we look back at 20-30 years ago,

Reedy Spigner III
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Increase constituent education surrounding recycling and composting for both residential and commercial constituents.
● Increasing the number of energy efficient products purchased and used in municipal buildings.
● Advocating commercial recycling. Additionally, recycling has the added benefit of creating jobs in recycling processing.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
As a member of the AEUO I will diligently research and advocate for sensible solutions to ensure the goal is met.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes. I think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy. For solar or any energy efficiency program to be successful it must have mass support. Mass support leads to volume discounts and efficiencies.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes. I support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy. These programs serve as effective mechanisms to educate and reward consumers of energy efficiency.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
As the capital city of Texas we are the standard-bearer and are expected to lead. How we react to new developments impacts the reaction of other municipalities. My experience in emergency preparedness guides my opinion that we should be prepared for all large emergencies including extreme weather events.

Mitrah Avini
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Promote recycling/reuse
● Promote walking and cycling
● Encourage local consumption/growing vegetable gardens
● Preserve heavily forested wild land; ensure new development adheres to environmental standards, utilizes native plants (to reduce need for watering), preserves trees, and so on.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
This is a matter of budgeting. Demand is also an issue. Addressing population growth may be necessary. Eliminating subsidies and incentive programs that attract relocation to Austin may also be necessary.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
I do think it’s important to expand access. The up front expenses are a limiting factor in underserved communities. Much of the environmentally-friendly alternatives such as electric cars, solar, wind, et cetera, are simply out of reach.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes, but the expansion needs to make solar accessible and affordable to low income communities.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Think globally, act locally – Austin needs to better address equity as one aspect of sustainability. Austin also needs to address the growth of the tech manufacturing industry in Austin, which is problematic.

The City cannot promote massive growth in watersheds, ignore the impact of impervious cover on flooding, and continue allowing the displacement of people of color if it wants to be a genuinely sustainable city.

City Council District 3

Pio Renteria
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

First, I want to transition Austin Energy fully away from fossil fuels as soon as possible.

When I voted in support of the 2027 updates to the Generation, and Climate Protection Plan recommended by the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group, we directed Austin energy to report back on the feasibility of reaching 80% use of renewable energy by 2027 and 30% by 2030.

Second, We are one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the nation and now we are the 11th largest City in the United States. The growth we are experiencing is not likely to stop anytime soon. So, we cannot continue to ignore that reality and instead we must commit ourselves to smart planning and to addressing that growth in ways that benefit our communities and protect our environment.

The elevated demand for housing and an outdated land development code have resulted in endless sprawl. That has exacerbated our traffic crisis. And that traffic affects more than just our sanity. It has a devastating environmental impact on our air and our water. That’s why we need to build the housing we need, including low-income and affordable housing, in smarter ways and in ways that will help support a multi-modal transportation system with a robust public transit network. That will have the added benefit of reducing impervious cover and helping us address flooding. On council, I have supported building more housing in central Austin and along transit corridors and will continue to do so.

Third, I am a proponent of multimodal transportation options including buses, trains, bicycling, and walking. I have championed initiatives and funding for active transportation improvements like the 2016 Mobility Bond which included $37.5 million for sidewalks, $27.5 million for Safe Routes to Schools, $26 million for urban trails, $20 million for bicycle infrastructure, and $15 million for safety-related intersection upgrades.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I support transitioning Austin Energy fully away from fossil fuels as soon as possible. When I voted in support of the 2027 updates to the Generation, and Climate Protection Plan recommended by the Electric Utility Commission Resource Planning Working Group, we directed Austin energy to report back on the feasibility of reaching 80% use of renewable energy by 2027 and 30% by 2030. I will continue to monitor progress on that front and will do all I can to help Austin Energy reach those goals.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.

Absolutely.

When we take on environmental issues, we must consider also consider justice and equity. When Austin Energy built the La Loma Community Solar Farm in my District, I worked with City and Austin Energy Staff to create policies that would allow folks enrolled in the Customer Assistance Program (CAP) to participate in the Community Solar Program. I would continue to support and develop these types of programs. And I would support exploring innovative financing options to allow low-income families to participate in rooftop solar programs.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.

Yes.  I strongly support efforts to make solar accessible to more people.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
We must do our part to limit climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  On the regional level, climate change may place more strain on our already strained water resources. That is why I support efforts to preserve water and protect our watersheds.

Our region is going to continue to experience significant population growth.  That growth may be accelerated by displacement from extreme weather events. We must plan for that growth and manage it responsibly by allowing for the construction of housing that is affordable, environmentally sustainable, and located in places where people can easily walk, bike, and use public transit.

Susana Almanza
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?

1) Explore financing mechanisms to enable energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, and energy storage.
2) Support efforts to work with large employers and academic institutions to implement and improve trip reduction programs that include a regular survey of how the workforce commutes, explanation of benefits to commuters, and includes promotion of transportation alternatives (e.g. carpool/vanpool, bus/rail, bike/walk, flex/compressed work schedules) to their employees; celebrate successful programs.
3) City adopts procurement specifications for materials reuse, reduced packaging, products with low embodied energy, materials with recycled content, and locally manufactured products and the City encourages other agencies and enterprises to follow suit

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?

1) Focus just as much effort on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources
2) Move toward a cleaner, carbon-free energy future

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.

Yes, there should be targeted programs. Low-income residents should be subsidized for installation of solar panels. The residents that need assistance for utilities should be prioritized for solar installation.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.

Yes, there should be targeted programs. Rebates should be targeted. Low-income residents should be subsidized for installation of solar panels. The residents that need assistance for utilities should be prioritized for solar installation.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
All future City planning efforts should incorporate climate change impacts as a key consideration in order to effectively and efficiently manage resources, operations, assets, and infrastructure. Becoming more resilient will involve coordination with regional partner organizations, such as the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), and Travis and other surrounding counties. Becoming more climate resilient will be an iterative process of responding to evolving changes in vulnerability, risk, demographics, and City infrastructure. The work will be on-going and will need to be assessed on an on-going basis, using the most current projections and data.

Amit Motwani
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
● Priority 1 – Pull out of Fayette Plant Contract ASAP (reduce GHG from electricity production)
Actions: (barring legal issues, policy fiat seems to be the answer, and economic viability seems to solve for itself, given studies)
● Priority 2 – More solar Energy production (reduce GHG from electricity production)
Actions: Increase commercial and residential incentives for solar, including rebates, tax benefits, and increased VoS return rates (all this coupled with outreach and edu around how to leverage existing incentives)
● Priority 3 – Reduce GHG from on road cars trucks
Actions: strong outreach/edu around leveraging existing tax breaks for electric vehicle use, strong promotion of new city-based incentives around electric vehicle usage, improvement and development of multimodal transit and mass transit systems that are powered by clean renewable energy sources.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
Work with experts to develop accompanying actionable project plan and milestones inclusive of mandated monitoring, reporting, and continuous improvement of the same.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Yes, I think it’s important. Participation in environmental stewardship through progressive strategies is often inaccessible to lower-income households, and therefore targeted programs that align incentive by demonstrating both reduced buy-in risk and clear return on investment, coupled with culturally appropriate outreach and education are the right combination to promote solar energy production and reduce dependence on high-GHG energy production source (see response to #1)

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
Yes, it creates a public investment that dilutes investment risk and spreads the benefits to all community members while paying non-monetary dividends in environmental quality. Also results in increased solar production which improves market leverage for AE., immediate savings for lower income users who qualify, and empirically proven to create local mid-high skills jobs.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
● Investment in continued and increased flood mitigation (support Prop D), including storm drain improvements, streambank stabilization, low-water crossing improvements, and buyouts in flood-prone areas
● Aggressive deeply/affordable housing development on public lands that are outside of 500 year floodplains (development practices in general that treats “500-year” flood as commensurate to previous “100-year” notion) or as directed by experts.
● Residency-exempt tenant protections for renting households, including potential insurance funds for lower income/more vulnerable households who may not have formal coverage
● Maintain and/or improve cohesive inclusion of expert groups for policy and investment guidance


Justin Jacobson
1. What are your top three priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Austin, and what actions would you take to implement needed changes?
A. Transportation- We need to get more folks out of their cars when occupied by one person and using more alternative means. Any purposed substitutions need to be as green as possible, i.e. battery and electric propulsion, walking, biking, all of the above. Actualizing an Austin where people can live without a car needs to become a reality.
B. Austin Energy Generation- Ensuring that Austin Energy switches to 100% renewable by our current 2030 deadline is paramount. Holding the utility accountable via oversight and providing the funds needed for the transitions is how we can get there.
C. Building Greener Structures- We need structures that help decrease our city’s energy needs while also helping to generate renewable power. There are other efficiencies we can have baked into new buildings and offer increases in entitlements for green community benefits.

2. As council member, you will be a member of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee. What will you do to make sure that Austin Energy takes the necessary steps to phase out its use of fossil fuels for power generation by 2030?
I would have no reservations about being assigned to this committee. As soon as possible we need to divest from the Fayettville coal plant. Austin Energy should be giving us monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports on progress. If we’re not getting there, then council needs to step up and say something.

3. Despite declining costs of solar, many low income residents and multi-family housing tenants are challenged to participate in Austin Energy’s existing rooftop solar programs. Do you think it is important to expand access to solar by developing targeted programs and policies at Austin Energy? Please explain.
Everyone that wants to participate in solar should have the option. It shouldn’t be limited based on any given category. It’s a smart investment on the part of Austin Energy to develop more local community solar projects. We can open them up for all kinds of residents to buy into, thus, helping to reduce or emissions and providing additional revenues to expand our renewable infrastructure.

4. Local, distributed scale solar installation has produced values to the utility, community and the local economy. Do you support the expansion of utility investment programs (including rebates) for installing solar locally within the Austin Energy territory? Please explain.
I fully support expanding this program. I believe it’s the smart kind of invest that will help Austin to become a leader in localized solar programs.

5. What specific role and responsibility do you see Austin taking in responding to local, regional and international impacts of climate change, including preparing for large numbers of people displaced by extreme weather events?
Austin needs to be a leader in a world impacted by climate change. We have to figure out how we keep growing while also being cognizant of our limited water resources, climbing temperatures, and increasing risks of wild fires. The solutions that we can come up with here will impact the world. To do so, we need to make sure that we prioritize funds to deal with these issues and partner with other jurisdictions to have a well sorted plans in the event of emergencies.