Preferring the term “gas-optional” vehicles rather than plug-in electric hybrids, Austin Energy has adopted a strategy to diversify and grow its electric utility operations and hopes to convince cities nationwide to follow their lead.
Roger Duncan at Austin Energy is traveling the country promoting the idea that the time is ripe for a convergence of municipally owned electrical operations with the transportation sector. The fit becomes natural through the increased use of gas-optional vehicles (GOVs).
Austin’s customer-owned utility has a directive from the Austin City Council to develop an incentive program for GOVs and to spread this idea to 50 major cities across the country. The hope is to demonstrate to manufacturers that there is a significant market potential that needs to be served.
On March 3, 2005, the Austin City Council approved a resolution [No. 050303-48] to create a program based on incentives to encourage the future purchase of GOVs by Austin Energy customers.
A March 2005 report by Duncan and his colleague Michael Osborne titled, “Report on Transportation Convergence”, shows how the municipal utility and the community can jointly expand the reliance on electricity as a replacement for traditional transportation fuels. The report states that electric fuel at 9 cents/kWh is equivalent to 56 cent per gallon gasoline.
Increased reliance on GOVs that are recharged overnight will provide the utility with a new revenue stream and help to even out its overall electric load on any given day (Austin Energy’s load at night is 50% of its load in the afternoon). Austin Energy estimates that 100,000 GOVs in its service area would raise nighttime load by about 125 MW and provide $27 million in new revenues.