Austin's Efforts to Combat Climate Change: A Look at Renewable Energy Programs

As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, cities around the world are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainable practices. One such city is Austin, Texas, which has implemented several programs to support renewable energy development and combat climate change.

The Austin Policy Against Climate Change

Austin's commitment to addressing climate change can be traced back to 2007 when the city adopted its first Austin Policy against Climate Change. This policy set a goal for the city to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and 100% by 2050. It also established a Climate Protection Plan, which outlines specific strategies and actions to achieve these targets. One of the key strategies outlined in the plan is the promotion of renewable energy sources.

The city recognizes that transitioning to clean and renewable energy is crucial in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Austin Energy's GreenChoice Program

Austin Energy, the city's publicly owned electric utility, offers a variety of programs to support renewable energy development. One of these programs is GreenChoice, which allows customers to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their electricity usage. These RECs are sourced from wind and solar energy projects in Texas, making it a local and sustainable option for residents and businesses. In addition to purchasing RECs, customers can also choose to participate in Community Solar, a program that allows them to subscribe to a portion of a solar farm's output. This option is ideal for those who are unable to install solar panels on their own property but still want to support renewable energy development.

Net-Zero Energy Capable Homes

Austin has also taken steps to promote energy-efficient and sustainable building practices.

In 2015, the city adopted a Net-Zero Energy Capable Homes policy, which requires all new single-family and duplex homes to be designed and built to be capable of producing as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. This policy not only reduces the city's carbon footprint but also helps residents save on their energy bills in the long run. It also encourages the use of renewable energy sources such as solar panels and geothermal systems in new construction.

The Austin Climate Equity Plan

In 2019, Austin took another step towards addressing climate change by adopting the Austin Climate Equity Plan. This plan recognizes that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change and aims to ensure that they are not left behind in the city's efforts to combat it. The plan includes initiatives such as expanding access to renewable energy for low-income households, increasing tree canopy coverage in underserved areas, and providing job training in the clean energy sector for disadvantaged communities.

The Impact of Austin's Renewable Energy Programs

Thanks to these programs and policies, Austin has made significant progress in reducing its carbon footprint and promoting renewable energy development. According to a report by the Austin Office of Sustainability, the city has already achieved a 33% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from municipal operations since 2007. In addition, Austin Energy's GreenChoice program has been highly successful, with over 30,000 customers participating and offsetting over 1.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions since its inception in 2000.

Challenges and Future Plans

While Austin has made great strides in promoting renewable energy, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.

One of the main challenges is the city's heavy reliance on natural gas for electricity generation. While natural gas is cleaner than coal, it is still a fossil fuel and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. To address this issue, Austin Energy has set a goal to reduce its reliance on natural gas by 2030 and transition to cleaner sources of energy. The city is also exploring the possibility of implementing a carbon tax to further incentivize the use of renewable energy.


Austin's efforts to combat climate change through renewable energy programs and policies serve as a model for other cities looking to take action. By setting ambitious goals and implementing innovative programs, the city has shown that it is possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable practices while also addressing issues of equity and social justice. As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, it is crucial for cities to follow in Austin's footsteps and take action towards a more sustainable future.