Austin Energy Rates Punishing Small Businesses

by Don Carlos Shepard II, M. Ed.
Austin small business owner

I noticed the element in your site’s candidate scorecard about encouraging small business. I’d like to share with you an important element that is driving small business out of Austin – utility costs.

Year before last, the city changed its policy regarding small commercial electric users, by lowering the peak demand threshold from 20kw to 10kw. That tripled our studio electric bill from $150/month to $450/month.

My wife and I own a small commercial building outright, all-electric (no gas option). After the rate hike, we leased it out and took our business virtual. We are savvy enough to do this, but little mom and pop (especially immigrant) business owners can not comprehend what is happening to them. Small restaurants are especially hard hit due to electric refrigeration costs. Other small local businesses find it hard to compete with big box stores, because big businesses have their own transformers and are not subject to many of the peak threshold charges.

I cannot imagine a more business-unfriendly approach to City government than a 300% rate increase on any public utility service. I hope that our future City Council will end the stranglehold monopoly that the City of Austin-owned energy utility is using to rob our small businesses, and reverse these oppressive fees. City Council has neither the political will to control spending, nor the acumen or expertise to oversee a public utility.