CPS Energy’s CEO and President, Paula Gold-Williams commented on energy and the environment at the Sixth Annual Texas Tribune Festival in Austin this past weekend. Gold-Williams served as part of a panel that addressed “What We’ve Learned about Renewables.”
Michael Webber of the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute moderated the discussion, which included Cheryl Mele, Chief Operating Officer of ERCOT, Greg Wortham, Founder of the Texas Wind Energy Clearinghouse, and Maura Yates, Vice President of Sustainable Solutions at MP2 Energy.
“Diversification is the best asset for energy,” said Gold-Williams, touting CPS Energy’s diverse portfolio of renewables and traditional energy.
Panelists exchanged insights and shared stories of how public and private energy utilities can capitalize on what ERCOT’s Mele described as the current “high renewable, low natural gas environment.”
“What we’ve learned is that the changes can be rapid,” said Mele, projecting more utility-scale solar on the horizon, as well as grid storage.
The lively discussion took place before about 70 people at Calhoun Hall on the University of Texas campus. Outside, more than 4,000 people participated in the three-day festival of ideas and policy, which featured a full-day track of six panels on Energy & the Environment.
Both Yates and Mele cited public utility efforts like CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy initiative as models for the private sector. “We’re flipping the models” said MP2’s Yates. “How do we adapt those models to work in the competitive market?”
Later during the panel, the discussion turned to the “decarbonization of Texas” and the Clean Power Plan.
“We are very much interested in reducing emissions, and because of our diverse portfolio, very close to meeting EPA regulations,” said Gold-Williams, adding that globally, some countries are having to use more carbon-based power to keep up with demand, while others are leapfrogging coal and going straight to renewables.
Regarding how to convince rural communities to accept solar and wind power, Mehle advised, “Don’t talk about building wind turbines or green energy….There’s a lot of ways to replicate what CPS did to get buy-in for renewables rurally.”