Consultant tells Georgetown not to manage its own utility department

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Story date 5-15-17; posted 6-6-17

The City of Georgetown shouldn’t rely on its own utility department to manage its energy, a consultant told city leaders on Tuesday.

Steve Moffitt, a partner with Schneider Engineering, said a third-party firm could better react quickly to changing market conditions, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

Georgetown came under fire for losing money on solar and wind contracts due to the lower prices of oil and natural gas, the newspaper reported. Because the prices for fossil fuels decreased in 2018, the city had to sell off its surplus renewable power for less than anticipated. Georgetown found itself $8.6 million in the hole and residents have felt the energy woes in their pocketbooks, with the average residential bill increasing by $12.82 on Feb. 1.

The rate increase is expected to generate $6 million for the city from February through September.

Moffitt said the city can’t dedicate enough staff to the management of energy contracts. He noted that some city officials are pulling double duty. Jim Briggs is both assistant city manager and general manager of utilities, for example.

The consultant recommended that Georgetown start a rate-stabilization fund. Money from that fund would help mitigate the impact of increased energy costs for power customers. Instead of big spikes in power rates, customers would see more gradual increases as money is pulled from the rate stabilization fund.

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