More than 378 new, full-time jobs, $21.5 million in payroll, $105 million in construction and $1.2 million in education contributions — when you add it all up, San Antonio’s New Energy Economy has resulted in more than $622 million in investments in San Antonio through April 2014, said Steve Nivin, assistant professor of economics at St. Mary’s University and director and chief economist of the SABÉR Institute.
The PhD in Political Economy was invited by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) to detail the economic impact of CPS Energy’s three-year-old New Energy Economy initiative to leverage clean energy investments on behalf of San Antonio. When “multipliers” are considered, the direct investment of $389 million climbs to $622 million.
“Given that we started from scratch, it’s truly remarkable,” said Nivin. “It’s interesting that it’s not just one or two companies. It’s really the development of a supply chain for the New Energy Economy,” he said, adding that he was unaware of similar initiatives elsewhere in the country.
Nivin presented the findings at the SAEDF quarterly board meeting Friday to more than 150 local business associates who also heard from University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo and CPS Energy’s Executive Vice President and Chief Generation and Strategy Officer Cris Eugster. Eugster said that when CPS Energy negotiates contracts, it “asks for more from our partners. We don’t want them building components in California or North Carolina–we want them here in our community.”
Multipliers include spending on supplies, materials and transportation, as well as the personal spending of employees–on homes, cars, groceries and the expenses of living life.
CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy was launched in June of 2011, less than a year after CEO Doyle Beneby arrived to lead the utility. The goals of the initiative include:
- Rebalancing CPS Energy’s portfolio by achieving 20% of generation capacity from renewable energy with low- or no-carbon emitting power plants by 2020.
- Leveraging utility investments, clean energy and innovative technologies for job creation and education investment.
- Reducing emissions by an amount equivalent to taking almost 1.5 million cars off the road.
- Fueling investment in the economy and education of San Antonio.
As it approaches its third birthday, CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy is delivering on all counts. Military veteran Edward Holder, 40, joined OCI Solar Power as a network engineer, providing support for the company’s consortium of solar partners. Holder found his military
background helped him smoothly transition into the private sector. “What I am doing in the private sector is similar but unique to what I was doing on the U.S.S. Reagan,” he said. “Fortunately, the skills you learn in the military equip you to be a team player and leader no matter where life takes you next.”
Irene Gamez, 38, also landed a career through the New Energy Economy. Gamez left a job as a certified nursing assistant to join KACO new energy, a solar inverter manufacturer that opened in San Antonio in 2013.
“A friend told me KACO was hiring,” said Gamez. “I looked it up online, and saw that it was part of the green power industry, so I was interested.” KACO trained Gamez and she has been on the job, with full time benefits, ever since.
In just three years, San Antonio has seen six companies set up shop and contribute to the local economy. Sun Edison and OCI Solar Power have built five solar farms here generating more than 75 megawatts of non polluting, renewable energy for the city, with five more planned by 2018. Mission Solar Energy will open its solar cell and panel manufacturing plant late this summer and KACO has been producing solar inverters here since July of 2013, moving its headquarters here after production began.
Greenstar, an LED manufacturing company, relocated to San Antonio and opened a factory here while providing more than 25,000 efficient LED lights to San Antonio’s streets. And Consert, Silver Spring Networks, and Landis+Gyr, companies that focus on smart grid technologies and infrastructure have all opened or will open offices in San Antonio.
These companies’ office leases, and local hiring of fulltime staff and contractors has resulted in a boost to the local economy. In addition, contractual agreements call for New Energy Economy partners to invest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education initiatives in San Antonio. So far, $1.2 million has been distributed of $13.3 million committed.
“CPS Energy is using its muscle for leverage in a truly effective manner,” said Leo Gomez, President and CEO of Brooks City-Base, where Mission Solar Energy has made a home. “It’s genius, and I want to see more of it at Brooks.”
“We’re just getting started,” said David Jungman, CPS Energy’s senior director of business development. “The harvest of these investments will pay community dividends for years to come.”