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Duff joins council; Denton will see boost in renewable energy

Don Duff joined the City Council for the first time Tuesday as Denton Municipal Electric boosted its renewable energy portfolio. 

In its first order of business, the City Council canvassed the June 10 runoff. Duff eked out a 52-vote victory over Paul Meltzer in District 3. Duff took his oath of office with his wife, Peggy, at his side and a handful of supporters and Meltzer in the audience. Then council members returned to their workroom for a full day's agenda that included talks about renewable energy. 

About 88 percent of the city's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2019, DME officials said. Denton ratepayers should benefit, too, because previously announced rate increases won't be needed.  

Next week, Denton Municipal Electric officials will seek more long-term contracts to buy renewable energy. 

DME General Manager Phil Williams said technological changes are coming faster than expected and driving down the costs of electricity from renewable sources. 

Last year, DME projected 70 percent of its electricity would come from renewable sources by 2019. 

On Tuesday, Williams projected DME will reach 88 percent renewables by 2019. The city-owned utility expects to buy 35 percent more wind power and 16 percent more solar power than originally projected, he said.  

The change likely affects DME's new $227 million, natural gas-fired power plant, Williams said. The controversial Denton Energy Center is being built on Jim Christal Road, west of Denton Enterprise Airport. 

Previously, DME estimated the Denton Energy Center would generate about 17 percent of the city's power. With the increase in renewable energy, electricity from the power plant is expected to drop to about 12 percent of the city's power mix, Williams said.  

The Denton Energy Center would still run when the statewide electric grid, ERCOT, requires it, even when the city has enough electricity for itself, Williams said.

ERCOT is a physical place where electricity is generated and distributed. ERCOT is also the financial place where electricity is bought and sold in Texas, Williams said. 

"We would not be required to run the plant at a loss," Williams said. "The [Denton Energy Center] protects us from market impacts." 

DME officials are still trying to find ways to have some of its commercial customers agree to discounts in exchange for using less power during peak demand, Williams said. About 60 percent of the power DME supplies each day is to commercial users, not residential customers. 

In addition, DME hopes to capitalize on its increase in renewable energy usage by finding a research partner for battery storage projects, Williams said. Temporary, utility-scale storage can help smooth out the differences between electrical supply and demand. 

DME also wants to encourage more customers to put solar panels on their rooftops, Williams said. More than 100 Denton homes and businesses are powered with solar panels, occasionally generating more electricity than they use. 

Council member Keely Briggs asked for a report on how much electricity DME has bought from Denton home and business owners. She also asked for a status report on the sale of the city's coal-fired power plant and its effect on the plan to buy more renewable energy. 

Denton is part owner with three other cities of a coal-fired power plant near Bryan. Negotiations with the first buyer have stalled, Williams said. On Friday, coal plant officials expect to review a fresh round of offers from other firms interested in buying the plant. 

If they can't sell the plant, that doesn't affect Denton's plans to buy more renewable energy or operate the Denton Energy Center, Williams said. 

"If we don't have a buyer, we're looking at decommissioning the plant," Williams said, adding that the time frame to do so was unknown. 

In other words, the city could be selling electricity from both the Denton Energy Center and the coal plant at the same time, Williams said, although he didn't expect that to go on for long. 

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Don Duff is sworn in Tuesday at City Hall by City Secretary Jennifer Walters. He is the new District 3 representative on the Denton City Council. Duff narrowly won a runoff race against Paul Meltzer to replace outgoing council member Kathleen Wazny, who did not seek re-election for a second term. Jeff Woo/DRC 

In Other Action

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Denton City Council also: 

  • Accepted donation of a watercolor painting, Turner Falls, by the late Rob Erdle and approved the purchase of a sculpture by James Surls, Seeing Through the Thorn Vine, for $105,000.

  • Amended the budget to allow the police department to hire five new officers.

  • Ratified the emergency replacement of four pumps for the Pecan Creek Water Reclamation Plant Sewage Pump Station No. 2 for $665,619 from multiple vendors and the emergency repair of a pump at the Lake Ray Roberts Water Treatment plant for $59,996.

  • Awarded a three-year contract for traffic signal poles from Techline for $2 million, a five-year contract for firefighter protection equipment from Casco Industries for $600,000, and a construction contract for $11 million to Ragle Inc. to widen South Bonnie Brae Street from Vintage Boulevard to Roselawn Drive. 

  • Approved airport lease agreements between BAM Denton Management Ventures and Sykes-Vaughan Investments; between J.R. Almand M.D. and CFD Integration; and with CFD Integration (dba CFDI Aero).