A delegation of local business leaders, including a representative from CPS Energy and led by Mayor Julian Castro, returned from London last week after a whirlwind two-day trade mission aimed at increasing economic ties between the UK and San Antonio.
British officials were interested in CPS Energy’s commitment to increase its renewable energy portfolio and bring clean energy manufacturing to San Antonio, as the country has its own agressive emissions-reductions goals.
CPS Energy Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Cris Eugster was on hand share some of the utility’s strategies. He also learned about UK efforts to repurpose coal plants to use cleaner burning fuels.
UK energy officials expressed a good deal of interest in CPS Energy’s partnership with Consert to install its Home Manager system for free into 140,000 local homes, giving those customers the ability to track and reduce their energy use, saving power and money.
They “were also intrigued by our Demand Response program,” under which commercial and industrial customers voluntarily reduce load at peak times, Eugster said. “We’re doing a lot of things that are interesting to the UK,” as they work to reduce emissions, Eugster said. “We were able to showcase the things we’re doing, and some of the companies we’re working with.”
Last week’s meeting was the second time UK and San Antonio energy officials have met and exchanged ideas; Greg Barker, the country’s minister for energy and climate change met with Castro and others here in May.
Strengthening CPS Energy’s efforts to turn San Antonio into a new energy economy hub dovetails neatly with the city of San Antonio’s efforts to increase foreign investment.
San Antonio Express-News business columnist David Hendricks wrote on Sunday about that decades’ long effort; he highlighted the new investments of two South Korean firms, which will build solar manufacturing here as part of a deal with CPS Energy to add 400 MW of solar power to the utility’s portfolio.
Hendricks emphasized that it can take years to develop foreign relationships to the point of investment, using Toyota’s move into San Antonio as an example:
Two decades after the city began courting Japanese investments, the plant opened in 2006. At $1.4 billion, the facility is San Antonio’s largest foreign investment to date. It now employs 2,800. Another 2,800 are employed at the plant’s onsite suppliers, many of which are Japanese companies with local partners.
“The competition for job-producing investments is more global now,” said Mario Hernandez, president of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation. “If we don’t compete for these investments, we’ll be left behind.”
The city welcomed the news earlier this year of two huge South Korean investments in response to a CPS Energy solar energy proposal that will create two new headquarters in San Antonio and bring a new industry to the city.
Other deals are materializing – such as Japan’s Maruchan Inc., which will produce instant noodles – that are joining earlier investments, ranging from a Spanish-operated call center, Atento, to Mrs. Baird’s Bakeries, a former U.S. company acquired by Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo.
Hendricks also noted that San Antonio’s ability to attract foreign investment has lagged behind other large Texas cities, but he listed many of the efforts, public and private, that are focused on helping the Alamo City catch up, including the Economic Development Foundation, of which CPS Energy is a partner; the city’s Economic Development Office, the Free Trade Alliance and others.
Until San Antonio is as well-known as other big city trading partners, said Eugster, “We’ve got to get out there.”