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City leadership has bad track record on utility decisions

OPINION

BY JEN HALL

Although the idle, rarely-used Austin Energy Nacogdoches biomass plant was a notable failure that preceded the City of Gainesville’s DHR plant, Austin Energy’s contract payments under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 100 MW of power for 20 years were spread among their nearly one million residents. However, instead of learning from Austin’s mistake, the City of Gainesville doubled down and contracted with the same business people for 102 MW for 30 years, with payments supported by a much lower 130,000 residents.

Austin Energy has since bought the plant and contract for $460 million, freeing it from the contract payments and financing the debt to be complete within the same 20-year period covered by the PPA. Admitting their mistake, an Austin Energy official stated, “We welcome anything Austin can do to reduce the losses from this bungled foray into biomass power generation, though buying the troubled plant is a bitter pill to swallow.”

Meanwhile, the City of Gainesville residents paid $750 million for its massive mistake, having to restart the 30-year clock with new debt payments. However, instead of admitting their earlier mistake, City Commissioners still proclaim victory and success at owning one of the few “renewable” biomass plants, despite the massive cost to its citizens (both in rates and in CO2 emissions). They also ignore scientists’ opinions stating that biomass pollution is similar to that of coal; few, if any, biomass plants are being built today. 

Even former President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan was lukewarm on, and did not endorse, biomass as green energy, mainly just debating the issue in its report.

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In light of these past decisions, should you again trust Gainesville City Commissioners, who are all uneducated with respect to energy generation and transmission, with a 30-year contract that will affect your future electricity bills and taxes? The answer should be a resounding “No! Not on your life!” They have brought us enough misery.

  • GRU misled the commission by claiming the biomass generator could use natural gas as a 100% alrernative fuel. Initially promoted by former mayor, Pegeen Hanrahan, biomass generation remains an Agenda-21 conspiracy that was politically pressured into the minds of both the commission and GRU at the time. No amount of logic was allowed to sway the votes and rhetoric of even the most energy educated “official” at the inception of the crime. All the profits are now flowing into the cynical pockets of off-shore investors who have no allegience to Gainesville or the economy of Florida and America. The biomass concept was originally discussed as a local 50 Megawatt project involving local engineers and talent derived from the University of Florida. It’s little wonder the UF has refused power negotiations with the ego bloated City commission and GRU – https://youtu.be/6m0m6AQTvt8

  • why anyone believes that cutting down millions of trees that breath in CO2 and out Oxygen, trucking them to a saw mill, cutting them up, trucking them to a plant, and burning them could be green or renewable. Would take 40 years to regrow them, very damming science effort linked to this very plant meaning it must have the eye of the scientific community for negative reasons…

    • Clearly you do not understand wood waste and biomass fuel. The majority of biomass fuel comes from wood shed facilities as wood waste. If the wood waste is not burned to generate electricity it is either incinerated with no co-benefit or landfilled with other waste. Biomass power is a good alternative for pulp/paper waste, lumber mill waste, refuge wood…

      There are two major problems acting against biomass.

      Huge subsidies for wind generation make it more attractive to investors by giving them large returns on the backs of tax payers. Do you realize wind generation owners can make a profit when market wholesale electric prices go negative? The tax subsidies prop up wind generation when it could not compete against natural gas, coal, nuclear, and biomass generation. Without mine and your tax dollars, wind generation would not exist.

      Natural gas prices in the US are half of the world price because of limited export capacity. Prior presidential administrations hindered the development of CNG export facilities to bottle the US market NG production. With expansive exploration and lack of demand US NG prices continue to stay at record low levels but that will not last forever. Gas companies will soon export more product and the US NG market will be open for trade.

      US consumers will soon realize the long term impact regulations and manipulating market practices have on a free market. Be prepared for power price increases and more tax payer money being shoveled to power companies to continue down the path of the Green New Deal.

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