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SXSW Offsets Emissions with Austin Energy REC Purchase

United States
February 18, 2008 - Austin, TX - South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Conferences (SXSW) in Austin, Texas has announced that it is purchasing Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from the City of Austin to negate its carbon footprint of 263 tons generated by the company during the planning and delivery of its 2007 event. Austin Energy will retire 448 solar RECs on behalf of SXSW and use the proceeds from the sale to begin implementation of a local renewable energy project.

One project under consideration is a solar charging station. The charging station would provide sufficient power to charge small devises such as cell phones and laptops, as well as electric scooters and bikes.

SXSW Managing Director Roland Swenson said “We are delighted to be able to partner with Austin Energy to pioneer this innovative renewable energy development especially since it is important to us that we support locally based projects. We appreciate that purchasing RECs not only reduces CO2 and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, but also other toxic pollutants. RECS also meet the key criteria of an offset - namely that the CO2 removal is additional to business as usual activity.”

“One of the goals of the Austin Climate Protection Plan is to reduce the carbon footprint of events that bring visitors to Austin,” said Austin Mayor Will Wynn. “This purchase by South by Southwest is an excellent partnership with the City and a great example of the kind of community leadership that will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Despite a 10% increase in the number of stages used in the 2007 Music Festival and an 80% increase in the size of office space, SXSW’s carbon footprint measurement for the September 2006 to August 2007 period grew by 6% from the 2006 baseline.

“The challenge for any business trying to reduce their carbon output is how to reduce emissions while a company is continuing to grow” commented Operations Director Eve McArthur. “One of the things we did that kept our emissions from being even higher was to work with Austin Energy on their program to make our office buildings much more energy efficient. In the past year we have seen a 30% drop in electricity consumption in one building.”

Some of the Greener Actions in the pipeline for SXSW 2008 include offering all delegates 24/7 access to biofuel made from cotton seed waste for their vehicles; eliminating all bottled water for staff and volunteers and using municipal water fountains instead; featuring environmental issues in the conference programs and offering tips to delegates on how to have a greener SXSW.

“SXSW has shown a tremendously strong commitment to implementing its Greener Actions Plan and environmental issues are now integrated into the programming and production of SXSWeek,” noted Una Johnston, SXSW’s UK & Ireland Manager and now its Environmental Consultant. “Our ongoing use of the standards, guidelines and tools contained in the World Resources Institute’s GHG Protocol to calculate emissions for a second year is generating really helpful information.”

In November 2007, SXSW was one of 14 festivals, including 10 from the UK, 2 from the US and 2 from Australia to win A Greenerfestival Award 2007 and receive the ‘Red Kite Mark’ which was awarded following completion of a 62 point questionnaire on its environmental policy.

Austin Energy has calculated the number of solar renewable energy certificates (RECs) that would displace a carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) from fossil fuel-based electricity. A REC represents the environmental attributes of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of renewable electricity production.

These environmental attributes include the elimination of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change; pollutants that contribute to smog and other air quality problems; and toxic substances, such as mercury, which can end up in our food and water system. A REC truly helps ‘green’ a business or event in addition to neutralizing carbon.

Austin Energy is an Austin community-owned electric utility with a comprehensive energy efficiency program. Austin Energy provides energy conservation information for homes and businesses, equipment purchasing guidelines and conservation ideas, and rebates and low-interest loans to help residential and business customers make energy efficiency improvements.

Austin was one of 13 Solar America Cities 2007, recognized by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Program. Austin City’s solar goals are to:

  • Increase solar installation visibility
  • Develop school energy curricular materials
  • Install solar energy systems in local schools
  • Educate teachers and students about solar energy
  • Assess rooftop areas suitable for solar development
  • Work with local non-profits to promote solar, energy efficiency and green building programs
  • Reduce barriers that prevent participation in renewable energy and energy conservation programs

Texas has a virtually unlimited solar energy supply, ranking first in the nation in solar resource potential, with high levels of direct solar radiation (suitable to support large-scale solar power plants) concentrated in West Texas. The Solar Energy Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin emphasizes research on solar radiation measurements at several sites across Texas compiled as the Texas Solar Radiation Data Base. The database information includes monthly solar radiation averages for these locations. Also see this solar radiation data with average BTU’s output per day for 8 Texas cities, provided by Thermo Technologies.

Texas is one of seven states partnering with DOE and the Western Governors Association to install concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The program’s overall goal is to install 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new CSP systems in the southwestern United States by 2010. For additional information, see the DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) web site, Southwest Concentrating Solar Power 1000-MW Initiative. For further information contact the State Energy Conservation Office www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_solar.htm
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