Two dates in recent memory have shaped the uncertain future of the Fayette Power Project, a coal-fired power plant near La Grange.
First, on March 26, 2020, the Austin City Council approved an emissions-reduction plan that called for its city-owned utility to shut down its portion of the plant by the end of 2022.
The second, after missing the 2022 goal, was on August 17, 2023, when Austin Energy made $11 million from the plant on that day alone.
Austin has already moved away from fossil fuels faster than the rest of the state, and today, the Fayette plant is responsible for most of Austin Energy’s remaining carbon emissions. But closing the plant in the name of fighting climate change has proven easier said than done.
The fact that it’s still running illustrates the legal, economic and technological obstacles cities face in their quests to eliminate emissions — and the market incentives working against that goal. Rising demand for power in Texas and changes to the state’s electricity market are making coal power – the dirtiest energy source from a carbon emissions perspective – even more financially valuable.
In an August public me