Seven years ago, the city fathers of Georgetown, Texas, decided that the town should rely on 100% renewable energy for its electricity needs. Georgetown is a small college town (pop. 71,000) about 25 miles north of Austin, Texas.
The town obtained long-term (20 years), fixed-cost contracts with a solar company and a wind company to provide electricity. The contracts were to buy nearly 900,000 Mwh per year. Georgetown’s average annual consumption is about 575,000 MWh with a peak of 145 MW, but they were thinking of future expansion. They could always sell the excess on the Texas energy market. Georgetown did remain connected to the Texas energy grid so they could buy electricity generated by fossil fuels and nuclear in case the unreliable solar and wind generation failed.
But the shale revolution hit. Natural gas prices decreased and made electricity cheaper, but Georgetown was locked into higher contracted prices. They also had to sell the excess contracted electricity on the open market at a loss. This caused the city budget to run multimillion dollar deficits. Guess who paid? Georgetown residents are now paying electric bills of more than $1,000 extra per year. Had the city remained on the state grid, the residents would be paying electric rates lower than they originally paid before the city got “100% renewable” energy.