CPS Energy praised for linking clean energy goals with local job creation

By on September 28, 2012

CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby’s decision last year to leverage the utility’s buying power to boost local economic and educational investments have earned it kudos from the Environmental Defense Center, which featured CPS Energy this week in its Energy Innovations series.

The series aims to highlight innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing, and progressive utilities, to “demonstrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The article, by EDF’s Jim Marston, director of the group’s Texas regional office, notes that CPS is the nation’s largest city-owned electric and gas company, with a +$2 billion budget, $10 billion in assets, serving more than 750,000 customers in and around San Antonio. In this excerpt, Marston details CPS Energy’s goals, which he calls “among the most progressive in the country.”

It is shooting for 20 percent renewable energy generation capacity by 2020 and has plans to mothball one of its 1970s-era coal plants in 2018, 15 years earlier than expected. But beyond carbon reduction targets and renewable energy commitments, CPS is using a very old-fashioned tool to spur energy innovation deep in the heart of Texas.

The tool? LEVERAGE. With a $2 billion annual operating budget and the highest credit rating in the industry… and the company is leveraging its renewable energy and clean technology dollars to bolster local job growth, protect the environment and help its customers use energy more wisely. CPS calls it the “New Energy Economy.”

Marston highlighted the 25-year power purchase agreement CPS Energy recently inked with a consortium led by OCI Solar to buy 400 MW from plants OCI Solar will build and operate in the region. To land the deal, OCI Solar had to agree to invest in a manufacting plant in San Antonio that will create hundreds of good-paying local jobs.

He also notes the partnership between Consert, a home area network company that relocated its headquarters to San Antonio from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Consert’s service is expected to reduce up to 250 MW of peak demand once the utility reaches its goal of 140,000 installations, easing the load on CPS’s system and reducing the amount of power it needs to generate.

“We’ve taken our approach to fuel diversity one step farther,” said Beneby, “by incorporating PPAs for renewable energy, focusing on demand response measures like home area networks, and investing in a new, efficient gas plant that relies on a resource that is plentiful in Texas. Our solution may not work for everyone, but we’ve customized an approach we believe works for our community.”

The Environmental Defense Fund began as a group of scientists, economists and attorneys working together to solve environmental problems. According to the group’s website, the Economist magazine has called EDF “America’s most literate green campaigners.” You can read about some of their “success stories” here.

CPS Energy is pleased that its initiatives are being recognized by groups like EDF.

“Community-owned utilities like CPS Energy are in prime positions to affect not just their own activity, but also that of the broader economy,” wrote Marston. “It’s exciting to see them take a thoughtful approach and a leadership position in the industry.”

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