AUSTIN, Texas – Bob Kahn, the newly appointed Austin Energy General Manager, has taken on the role after the resignation of the previous general manager, Jackie Sargent. Sargent’s departure followed the controversial response to the February ice storm that rocked the city.
In the wake of the scorching summer heat, many residents of Austin are expressing frustration over their soaring energy bills. Tanna Rutherford, a resident, shared her concerns, stating, “I feel like I already pay so much for rent. Whenever our energy starts to go up and water and electricity, it’s really frustrating because it’s like I’m already trying to maintain my budget within college, and it’s almost like rent being raised with their prices. It’s just adding on to the things that I have to worry about.” Lydia Hamilton, another resident, concurred, exclaiming, “At least $100 for one person a month for utility bills. It’s insane.”
Responding to these concerns, Kahn emphasized that anyone struggling to pay their bills should reach out for assistance programs designed to provide support. Recognizing the costliness of generating energy, he explained that expenses are bound to rise. In fact, base rate changes were approved the previous year to ensure the utility’s financial stability. Kahn stressed the importance of maintaining a reserve margin, stating, “Most utilities have a 200 plus day reserve margin on their money, and we’re at 93 days right now, which is a problem, and our goal is 150.”
Rutherford voiced her desire for the utility company to consider the financial difficulties faced by those who cannot afford steep price hikes, reiterating that electricity is a basic necessity. The crippling effects of the February storm, which left thousands without power, remain a significant source of frustration for residents. Rutherford shared her experience of being confined to her apartment for almost a week during that challenging time. Kahn acknowledged that the utility’s assessment during the storm could have been better, promising to rectify the situation through an in-depth after-action report. Furthermore, he recognized the need for improved communication with customers.
Looking ahead, Kahn highlighted the utility’s commitment to exploring solutions such as burying power lines and strengthening infrastructure to mitigate future disruptions. He emphasized the necessity of adaptability and flexibility to meet various challenges faced by the utility. However, some Austinites express concerns about being priced out of their homes due to rising costs. Rutherford expressed her worry about the increasing rental prices, stating, “So having to worry about other things to put into the budget that are just going to grow and grow and grow, it’s hard to see myself living here long term.”
In addition to addressing the concerns of high energy bills, Austin Energy also announced the establishment of the Homeless Student Assistance Fund. This initiative allows customers to donate to assist students in need, further extending their support within the community.