By Kathy Warbelow
For more than three decades, in a career spanning government, energy and public affairs, Mark Rose has seen Central Texas grow in almost every direction.
Now the Bluebonnet general manager is a key participant as the next phase unfolds: development along the Texas 130 corridor, where the co-op is one of the primary providers of power.
“In the late 1980s and ‘90s, growth in Central Texas spread west to the Hill Country, north to Williamson County and south along Interstate 35,” Rose said. “There’s no place for growth to go now except east. But it takes infrastructure – like Texas 130 – to make it happen.”
The last section of the toll road, from Mustang Ridge to Seguin, opens in November. That means drivers will be able to travel 91 miles, from Georgetown to Seguin, without a single stoplight or rush-hour traffic jam.
“The toll road will open up areas for development in Bastrop and Caldwell counties,” Rose said. “There are no regulatory issues, like there are in the Hill Country; there’s access to roadways and airports, and there’s available water. . .
“The focus now needs to be on regional coordination so our area can grow smartly, in a way that promotes sustainable development.”
Bluebonnet has a big role in all of it.
“As the electric provider for most of the 130 corridor, with the exception of a few stretches in Travis County served by Austin Energy, Bluebonnet is the common thread for the developers and communities,” Rose said. “We are committed to promoting sustainable growth. That might be by encouraging commercial, residential and mixed-use developments to build extremely energy- and water-efficient homes. They might put in solar or wind generation to reduce the need for fossil fuel generation, possibly even generating enough for Bluebonnet to purchase and distribute through our grid.”
Bluebonnet members already have the Net Energy Market, a web portal that lets them monitor their energy use by the day or hour, see how much they’re spending and get advice on how to manage their power consumption.
The online tool has been available for residential customers since 2010. A version for large industrial customers went live in February.
No other Texas utility has anything like it, and it could be attractive to companies scoping out potential locations in Central Texas.
“Bluebonnet’s technology is what sets us apart from other utilities. It’s what puts us in a great position to meet the challenges of a growing population that will demand more and better services from their electric provider,” Rose said.
Kathy Warbelow is a guest contributor to The Bluebonnet Blog. She’s lived in Austin since 1996 and was the business editor at the Austin American-Statesman for 10 years.