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Austin Energy begins outreach about proposed downtown power upgrades

Austin Energy is making a preemptive strike to make sure there's enough power available downtown for future development. Tuesday they discussed their plans with folks from the Rainey Street neighborhood, the ones who are going to have to live with it. (CBS Austin)

Austin Energy is making a preemptive strike to make sure there's enough power available downtown for future development. Tuesday they discussed their plans with folks from the Rainey Street neighborhood, the ones who are going to have to live with it.

If anything has been holding back development in downtown Austin, it's not the lack of electricity. Robert Cullick, director of communications for Austin Energy says, “Nobody in the last 50 years has had to worry, ‘Do I have enough electricity to build downtown?’ We want to make sure that's the case for the next 50 years or more."

Tuesday Austin Energy met with neighbors from the Rainey Street area to talk about how they're going to meet the neighbors' future power needs. Cullick says, “The overall plan is a comprehensive plan. It's not just a new substation but the complete renovation of another substation and the addition of equipment to a third substation."

The new substation will go up on a vacant lot just a block from Rainey Street. When it comes on line it will provide relief to older power facilities like the one behind the old Brackenridge hospital. It's all part of a plan that was formed decades ago. Cullick says, “And we said we know downtown is growing, we know we're eventually going to need a 3rd substation downtown and some very wise people secured that land long before I ever got around here."

Austin Energy has had no problem selling people on the need for the substation. But some are worried about what it will look like. Tricia Roberts says "I'm very concerned about this substation I'll have to look at morning noon and night." We’re told that type of concern is already very high on Austin Energy’s list.

Statement from Downtown Austin Alliance:

“Downtown added 8 million square feet of development in 2017 alone, and future projects will bring another 15 million square feet in the near future. The Downtown Alliance did a capacity analysis in 2017 to look at potential development that could happen on the remaining opportunity sites downtown and determined that we could essentially double the size of downtown in square footage under current zoning. Proactively investing in the downtown grid is extremely important to ensure redundant service—meaning if one substation goes down another will serve as a backup.”
--Dewitt Peart, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Austin Alliance
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