The City Council Has Been Snookered – But It’s Not Too Late To Fix It!

By Bill Oakey – November 30, 2022

I am not surprised by what happed yesterday with the City Council and Austin Energy. After all, a good sales pitch can be hard to resist. The odds are pretty good that snake oil, if it were cleverly packaged in souvenir bottles with an antique logo, might sell pretty well. Heck, you could probably sell them in a gift shop on Congress Avenue.

But, when it comes to something serious, like our electric bills, we should all pay careful attention to what’s inside the package that we are being sold. Otherwise, we could easily be sold down the river.

So, How Can We Un-Snooker the City Council?

The answer is pretty simple. Just let the numbers do the talking. I like to talk, but I would be willing to sit still without uttering a single word, if we could just get the right set of numbers. So, let me try this, and let’s see how it goes…

Dear Friends On the Austin City Council,

Most of you know me pretty well. I don’t have a reputation for making up things that are not true. I try to ensure that my research produces accurate information. If I make an honest mistake, I will accept responsibility for it, and correct it promptly. You probably know that I have successfully challenged Austin electric rates in the past. I was appointed to the Electric Utility Commission, after getting the City Council to cut a 20% rate increase in half, in April 1984. In between music events and art shows, I have been following electric rate cases for 39 years. So, I know more than just a little bit about them.

Here is my simple challenge for you in the current rate case. Stop listening to me, and all of the other competing voices. Ask for a few sets of numbers, and then let those numbers do the talking. Please do that, and I promise that this whole confusing matter will be put to rest.

These Are the Numbers That You Need to Ask For

For each proposed rate increase scenario, ask Austin Energy to provide residential customer bill examples for the following consumption amounts and timeframes:

1. 860 kWh (the average customer amount) in a typical winter month

2. 1000 kWh in a typical winter month

3. 1500 kWh in a typical winter month

4. 2000 kWh in a typical winter month

5. The same four examples in a typical July

6. The same four examples, using  July, 2022 data

 7. Try to get some estimated bill impacts for typical small business ratepayers. Those folks are still trying to recover from pandemic-related financial losses. They need your compassion, and the best possible diligence that you can provide.

Of course, every individual customer has different conditions in their home that will affect their energy usage. But any examples are better than no examples at all. You folks on the City Council could offer your own electric bills, or the bills of people on your  staffs. The point of this exercise is to demystify the actual impact of whatever rate increase that you consider. Will a triple-dose of rate shock give most of us a $30 monthly bill increase, or will it be significantly higher for a 3 bedroom home, especially in another summer heatwave?

Please ask for those sets of numbers, and take a good, hard look at them. Don’t pass a highly controversial rate increase, without knowing up front how it will impact the community. Thank you for your time and consideration.

On a Lighter Note, Here’s the Lowdown On Snookering

Here’s the official definition by Merriam-Webster. Click to enlarge the images.

The transitive verb describes what has befallen our City Council.

And a lesson can be learned from the noun definition.

Don’t be snookered on your Christmas gift purchase of professional snooker balls. You can get them for less than the full retail price of $452.03.

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