Op-Ed: More Hot Air For CPS’ New Energy Plan

By Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director

This op-ed was originally published in the San Antonio Express News on March 19, 2018. 

Coal PlantsPhoto: John Davenport/San Antonio Express-News
CPS Energy's coal-fired power plants J.K. Spruce (right) and Deely (left stack) on Calaveras Lake Jan. 4.
The Sierra Club disagrees with the stance to keep these online.

CPS Energy General Manager Paula Gold-Williams recently unveiled the public utility’s 25-year “Flexible Management Plan.”

Environmental advocates and community members have been urging CPS Energy for years to become a leader on clean energy and engage the public in a meaningful resource planning process. What did we get?

An underwhelming plan developed in secret designed to preserve the status quo.

What’s just as outrageous as the plan is the lack of transparency leading up to its publishing. Despite big talk about community engagement, CPS Energy chose to release this milquetoast energy plan just as a citywide Climate Action Plan is being developed and guided by resident participation.

Based on a few limited charts provided by CPS Energy on the plan, CPS Energy is basically telling San Antonio that they plan to do nothing for four years and will start adding small bits of renewables, “bulk storage,” and nearly 1,000 MWs of relatively smaller “flexible generation” plants over the next 25 years. 

But what is “flexible” generation?

I suspect it’s smaller natural gas plants. These plants are flexible because they can be ramped up or down quickly to respond to demand and price, but what’s not flexible is the fact that they still produce pollution, including carbon dioxide that disrupts our climate.

Despite the fluff talk of flexibility, CPS Energy’s 25-year plan is mostly about burning more gas.

What about the Spruce 1 and 2 coal plants — those Wyoming-coal burning, water-sucking, ozone-producing, climate-disrupting, mercury-poisoning behemoths out at Lake Calaveras?

Their plan is to run the older Spruce 1 through 2031, with no plans to reduce its pollution so it doesn’t poison the local community.

And the more modern Spruce 2? Keep running it, apparently, forever.

This is a far cry from the forward-thinking initiatives of the Doyle Beneby era and the STEP program, which put San Antonio on the map as clean energy leaders.

While CPS Energy deserved credit for their solar and energy efficiency programs, where is the investment after 2020? CPS Energy needs a STEP II to ensure San Antonio commits to save energy, not just produce it.

Ten years ago, San Antonio thought big under the leadership of Doyle Beneby and Julián Castro. It’s time Paula Gold-Williams and Ron Nirenberg take the next step in San Antonio’s evolution into a 21st century climate justice leader with investment in affordable clean energy and clean air for the city.

This vision must be guided by the real owners of CPS Energy, the public.