Tag Archives: CPS Energy

New Study Finds 4,100 Solar Jobs in Texas: Texas Jumps to Sixth Place in National Rankings

AUSTIN, TX – A new report from The Solar Foundation (TSF), a national non-profit research organization, finds more than 4,100 Texans are now working in the solar power industry, marking a 28 per cent increase in solar jobs in one year. In addition, Texas has moved up to sixth place in national rankings for solar jobs, from eighth in 2012. Texas is also leading the nation in wind power production, and today’s new solar report clearly positions Texas as a clean energy leader. Growth in Texas solar power has been spurred by strong public policy, public and private investment that will continue to pay dividends and create jobs.

“Falling solar prices combined with enormous solar resources will make Texas a huge solar market. With some smart policy, jobs in the solar industry could easily double or triple in the next three to five years,” said David Dixon, Chief Operating Officer for Native Inc. Native and the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter have partnered to bring residential rooftop solar and green building upgrades to Sierra Club members across Texas.

Texas’s largest municipal electric utilities – CPS Energy in San Antonio and Austin Energy in Austin – have enacted strong residential policies and incentives for rooftop solar power, spurring growth and leading to hundreds of rooftop solar installations in the two cities, enough to power hundreds of homes and small business. In addition, CPS Energy announced a contract with OCI Solar to build 400 MWs of utility-scale solar by 2017, powering 10 per cent of homes in the San Antonio area. CPS Energy will flip the switch on its first solar power project this year, producing the first utility-scale solar power for the utility.

“Smart policies and investments have expanded the solar economy in Texas, making these outstanding jobs numbers possible,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We have the opportunity to do more to grow solar jobs in 2014. Here in Austin, the city council has asked Austin Energy to double our solar goal. If Austin takes this smart step forward, we’ll see more solar systems on homes and businesses in Austin being installed by local men and women in Austin’s solar industry.”

In addition, in 2011, the Texas Legislature listened to solar advocates and passed two statewide laws, including legislation to allow third-party leasing and financing of solar in Texas’s competitive electric areas. These laws have helped spread solar development in areas like Houston and Dallas.

“We want to see these figures increase, and we’re counting on municipal utilities like Austin Energy to lead the way by expanding job-creating solar policies,” said Dave Cortez, organizing representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign in Central Texas. “When Value of Solar and our ten-year solar goals are scaled back, that drives down investment and kills well-paying jobs in Austin’s solar industry. For Austin Energy, the right choice is clear: more solar means more jobs.”

Texas will see two private solar projects begin to produce power for the grid in 2014. First Solar began the groundbreaking on its Barilla Solar Project in Pecos County near Fort Stockton, which would sell its output into the competitive market. White Camp Solar in Kent County, near Lubbock, has announced that it will begin operations of a 135 megawatt utility-scale solar plant by the summer. A variety of other utility-scale projects are being planned throughout Texas in 2014 through 2016.

State solar employment figures were generated using thousands of data points from a combination of high-quality sources, including TSF’s highly-acclaimed National Solar Jobs Census 2013, the Solar Energy Industries Association’s National Solar Database, and other sources. While the margin of error for some of the smaller solar jobs states remains wide, these numbers are believed to be the most credible and up-to-date state-level solar jobs numbers in existence. The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 was conducted by TSF and BW Research Partnership with support from The George Washington University’s Solar Institute.  The National Solar Jobs Census 2013 and separate district-level Census reports for California, Arizona and Minnesota, are available at www.tsfcensus.org.

About The Solar Foundation: The Solar Foundation® (TSF) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to increase understanding of solar energy through strategic research that educates the public and transforms markets. Since 2010, TSF has published its annual National Solar Jobs Census, which established the first credible solar jobs base line for the U.S. TSF is considered the nation’s authority on the solar labor force and advises many organizations on the topic. TSF is also a leading provider of educational materials on the economic impacts of solar for local governments through its work with the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition, TSF chairs the National Solar Schools Consortium, a group of stakeholders seeking to make solar a larger part of the national K-12 system. More at http://TheSolarFoundation.org.

CPS Energy investments in clean energy paying off

Back in the 2010 to 2011 period, CPS Energy changed course, due to new leadership, significant opposition from the community over previous plans — including that of the Sierra Club — and some wise investments and strategies. The San Antonio municipal electric and gas utility — the largest in Texas — abandoned a plan to heavily invest in a scheme to double the size of the South Texas (Nuclear) Plant in Matagorda County and instead bet on LED lights, demand response, solar and IGCC — Integrated Gasification Carbon Capture. On three of the four, they appear to have been good decisions. On the other — so-called “clean” coal — the jury is still out. 

First, CPS Energy teamed up with demand response companies and technologies — companies that can help residential and industrial customers literally reduce their energy use during certain peak times of the summer or winter and better control their loads. CPS Energy has a variety of programs, but the most successful has been the Home Manager, which allows residential customers to control air conditioners, electric water heaters and pool pumps via computer, smart phone or tablet. According to CEO Doyle Beneby, the goal is to use Home Manager, Smart Thermostats, as well as more robust commercial and industrial DR to reach 250 MWs of DR in San Antonio by 2020. The good news? They are more than half-way there in 2014. 

At a recent quarterly Environmental Stakeholder meeting, Beneby and CPS Energy’s Chris Eugster told the folks in attendance that some 16,000 homes are currently using Home Manager — leading to the potential to save more than 30 MWs during peak demand events – while another 80,000 homes are on the Peaker Saving program, a more limited program aimed squarely at air conditioning, but that still accounts for around 30 MWs. Some 200 industrial and commercial customers account for another 70 MWs of peak demand savings when called upon. All told? 134 MWs of Demand Response. 

It has already helped the state. CPS Energy reduced demand by 47 megawatts during the polar vortex freeze earlier this month–on January 6th.   This emergency response service was critical in the early morning hours when several plants were unexpectedly down, including significant power loss from the Comanche Peak Nuclear plant owned by Luminant. 

LED lighting with the company GreenStar is also going full throttle. Not only is the company manufacturing LED lights in the San Antonio area, they are being installed In San Antonio’s streets. Some 11,000 traffic lights using old technology have been replaced with LED lighting by the local company with a goal of getting to 25,000 lights by October, covering about 30% of all traffic lights. The other good news is these lights are “dark sky” certified, meaning they point down, not up, meaning hopefully one day those living in the city can see the stars. 

On the solar side, CPS Energy says it now has more than 12 MWs of onsite solar installed in its territory, three solar PV utility-scale plants up and running — about 44 MWs in all — and the newest utility-scale plant — the Alamo 1 41 MW plant being built by OCI should be done this year. That means CPS Energy will be at approximately 100 MWs out of their 400 MW solar goal. OCI — whose manufacturing plant is now being called Mission Solar rather than Nexelon– will eventually hire 400 San Antonians and is also in the process of building another 50 MW solar facility in South Texas. 

The deal to bring power from so-called “Clean Coal” on the other hand, has hit a snag. While CPS Energy has not given up on the potential to import power from the Summit Plant being developed west of Odessa, Texas, the continual delays and price increases has meant Summit has been unable to meet deadlines and price expectations. Beneby said he would still consider taking power from the plant — which would “gasify” coal – before running turbines and sending the carbon dioxide emissions underground, but the price would have to be right. 

In other news, Beneby said he had gone forward with an agreement made during the sometimes contentious rate discussions last winter, when City Council approved an increase in CPS Energy rates, and was exploring the creation of a new program designed to bring payment assistance and weatherization to a greater penetration among San Antonio’s less affluent, older folks on fixed incomes and those with old, leaky homes. Thus far, some 7,080 homes have been weatherized in recent years, but the goal of reaching 40,000 homes by 2020 will be challenging without a much greater marketing and implementation presence and Beneby said they were exploring creating a new organizational structure — including collaborating with neighborhood groups and non-profits — to get there. 

He also said that one of the other demands — that CPS Energy redo its energy efficiency study which led to its current goal of 771 MWs of demand response and energy efficiency by 2020 — was being met, and that CPS Energy had hired Nextant to do the study. He expected it to be released in March or April and to show that CPS Energy could do more — both by 2020 and beyond. 

Finally, Beneby noted that he was in talked with Senator Troy Fraser and SAWS — the San Antonio Water Service — over the concept of building power plants to help desalinate water and have the power plants available to the grid in times of stress. The idea would to co-locate a natural gas combined cycle plant of approximately 200 MWs to power a 75,000 acre-foot desalination plant. When water was not needed, or the electric grid was stressed, the electricity plant would be available. Beneby said CPS Energy was not tied to the technology, and a solar plant, or solar-gas hybrid plant were also possible though the plant would need to be able to be dispatched on short notice. 

San Antonio Council approves rate increase — but calls on CPS Energy to add programs and efficiency

Today, the San Antonio Council  approved on a 9-2 vote  the proposed CPS Energy rate increase of 4.25%. However, while approving the rate — reduced from an original 4.75% increase proposal — several members asked CPS Energy to look at expanding its consumer service projects as well as their weatherization program known as Casa Verde. Moreover, several other councilmembers called on CPS Energy to look at increasing its STEP energy efficiency goals from the current goal of 771 MWs. CPS Energy General Manager Doyle Beneby told the council they would begin meetings to look at improving Casa Verde and would initiate a new energy efficiency study to see if the goals would be raised in the STEP program. Councilmembers also wanted CPS Energy to look at a fixed rates for those on fixed incomes.

Sierra Club, and other members of the ReEnergize Coalition, will continue to work with City Council and CPS Energy to increase energy efficiency and solar programs and update building energy codes in San Antonio.

ReEnergize San Antonio, Sierra Club again tell San Antonio Council — no CPS Energy Rate increase without more investment in solar, energy efficiency

Last night, in San Antonio’s beautiful council chambers, members of the ReEnergize San Antonio coalition — including several representatives of Sierra Club — told the City Council “NO” on the rate increase proposed by CPS Energy, unless significant additional investments in energy efficiency, solar and weatherization were made as part of the rate increase.

CPS Energy is proposing to raise rates by 4.25% across the board on all residential, commercial and industrial customers, even as the municipal utility grows in accounts and sales. Part of the reason for the rate increase appears to be legitimate — new needed transmission, meter and environmental regulatory upgrades. But the ReEnergize Coalition argued last night that much more could be done to lower the impact of the proposed rate increase.

Local Sierra Club members Terry Burns and Meredith McGuire spoke eloquently about the need to invest in clean power and energy efficiency and look at the concept of tiered rates — where those using more would pay a higher rate while those using a minimum amount could actually see lower rates. Terry Burns also spoke about the need for community solar. Several members of the coalition like Antonio Diaz and Karen Hadden — with the SEED Coalition — spoke of the dangers of continued investments in the aging and failing South Texas Nuclear Power Plant, while Marisol Cortez of the People Power Coalition  and Diana Lopez of Southwest Workers spoke about the need to redouble efforts on the Casa Verde weatherization program, using a neighborhood “Promotora” model, and to invest in community solar for working San Antonians so they could enjoy the benefits of solar power. Tom “Smitty” Smith from Public Citizen spoke about the fact that the original STEP Goal of 771 MWs was made based on budgetary considerations because it was thought it would cost more than it does and that 1221 MWs as originally proposed by KEMA was achievable. Indeed, when the original KEMA report came out, an LED light was prohibitively expensive, while today they can be purchased for the same amount as a compact flourescent light. Image

City Council members are expected to consider the CPS Energy rate increase today at City Hall.

Below are comments made by Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter:

I am here on behalf of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and we are part of the ReEnergize San Antonio Coalition calling for 13 demands to make CPS Energy a true clean energy leader focussed on affordable service and energy conservation before any rate increase is approved. We have some good news. CPS Energy has lowered their rate request from 4.75% to 4.25%, they have put more information on their website about the rates and how they impact each customer class, and they have notified ERCOT in writing that they do intend to close the Dirty Deely plant by 2018.

I have four issues I want to raise. First, city council should and must increase STEP – the Saving Tomorrow’s Energy Program — which has been so successful. We did it once in 2009, setting a goal of 771 MWs by 2020 in energy reduction. If you look at the response to your questions by CPS Energy on October 14th, you will see that the existence of STEP is what is allowing CPS Energy to close the Dirty Deely coal plant. You should also know that CPS Energy will already meet half of their 2020 goal by the end of the year. We are meeting the goal faster and at a lower cost than expected.

Now is the time to increase the goal. THe original Kema study found that you could meet 1200 MWs of demand reduction by 2020 –economically and technically. It was feasible. Let’s do this, and raise the goals and increase all of the programs, including community solar.

Second, as part of this goal, CPS Energy must redouble its efforts to weatherize homes. 6000 homes a year is good, but it is only a start and the goal should be doubled and CPS Energy must work with SAWS to do gas, electric and water conservation at the same time.

Third, CPS ENergy should look at tiered rates. In Austin, we just went through a rate case and are doing five tiered rates. That may be too much and too complicated, but going from one rate to three rates depending on the amount used would be a good start. At the very least, City Council should direct CPS Energy to conduct a study on tiered rates to see its impacts on affordability, revenues and energy use.

Finally, and this is really independent of the rate discussion, City COuncil should and must update San Antonio’s energy code. Austin has done it, Houston is doing it and San Antonio must do it. San Antonio is currently under the 2009 IECC code and going to the 2012 IECC codes would save 10 to 15% in energy costs for the average homeowner. This is an action City Council could take that would lower the impact of any proposed rate increase.”

We hope City Council and CPS Energy does the right thing, and require significant new investments in conservation, energy efficiency, community solar and demand response before any rate increase is approved. Stay tuned…

Sierra Club others tell CPS Energy Board: Take 10 Actions Prior to Proposed October Rate Increase




Submitted to CPS Energy and San Antonio Mayor during the CPS Rate Case Input Session, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.


The Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition opposes the proposed CPS rate hike because it promotes unsustainable growth, fueled by dirty energy, and unfairly burdens residential ratepayers, especially middle-class and poor San Antonians who have been disproportionately hurt by the Great Recession. Any change in costs to rate-payers must be prefaced – at the very least – by the following conditions and actions. 

Energy Conservation

  • CPS must prioritize energy conservation and efficiency. The rates must create energy-conservation incentives for all users, not just home-owners but also businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental offices. City policies and CPS internal policies and budgets should prioritize energy conservation and create disincentives for unsustainable growth
  • To that end, CPS’s rate change should set up multiple tiers. For example, the first “x” kilowatt hours used each month (e.g., the minimum amount of electricity necessary for a family of five to maintain a healthy home) should cost less than the current rate. The next “y” kilowatt hours used each month (e.g., an amount between “x” and the current median household usage per month) could be billed at the current rate. The third tier (e.g., from the median – 50th  up to the 75th percentile of the current usage) of kilowatt hours per month could be billed at 105 percent of the current rate, and any usage above the 75th percentile could be billed at 120 percent of the current rate. 
  • Similarly, CPS’s rate change must not unfairly burden residential and small-business rate-payers. There should be no discounted or “wholesale” rates for energy-intensive businesses. If CPS needs to develop new energy-producing facilities, the funds should come from the businesses that use that energy to make their profits. Any rate “breaks” should be based only upon measurable social benefits that the business provides, such as employing large numbers of workers at living wages. Wholesale rates to other communities should be predicated upon their engaging in similar energy conservation efforts, linked with their retail rates for selling that energy. There should be multiple tiers of energy rates for businesses, too, to reward energy efficiency and conservation. Profitable businesses should be willing to invest some of those profits in San Antonio’s future. Already we have many examples of companies taking that “high road,” but CPS needs to embed such investment as a requirement in its rate structure. 
  • Most of the increased income from residential rate changes should be earmarked for extensive and effective programs for improving the energy-efficiency of homes – specifically, those owned by working-class or impoverished families. The remainder of the increased income from residential rate changes could be applied to help small-scale landlords of rental units upgrade the energy efficiency of apartments and houses.  Some of the increased income from business rate changes should be earmarked for investment in city-owned and public/private decentralized local renewable energy-production – to replace non-renewable sources now used, but also to prevent the city from being “captive” to some of the energy-producers from which we now buy wind-generated energy. Another portion could be earmarked for improving the energy-efficiency of not-for-profit institutional buildings, such as schools.
  • Emphasis on co-investment in local solar production should be expanded not reduced. Net metering is an excellent way to promote energy efficiency in homes and businesses and increase the amount of energy being produced in the community. And other models are worth exploring: e.g., encouraging homeowners to buy a share of a solar array located on a school’s roof, and then allowing that share to be sold as part of the value of their house. Community-based decentralized solar programs should be made accessible to all, including low-income families.
  • CPS should support dramatic changes to the city’s building code and other policies so that they require energy-conservation measures, such as solar hot water systems on all new or newly renovated apartment buildings. CPS should support immediate adoption of the 2012 IECC building energy codes for new residential and commercial construction. CPS should be proactive in rapidly implementing the higher energy efficiency goal suggested by the 2004 KEMA study. Furthermore, the KEMA study is almost 10 years old, so it does not take into account advances in technology. CPS should actively encourage a new study of how San Antonio could become even more energy efficient.
  • Existing customers should not shoulder the burden of increasing system growth by paying for the connection of new developments. CPS Energy should revise their interconnection policy and charge much more for large commercial and residential development, so that most of the cost of new growth is borne by those promoting (and profiting from) the growth. These charges could be reduced for development that exceeds the 2012 IECC codes by 20 percent or more.

Pollution and Public Health 

  • CPS must effect the rapid reduction of threats to public health due to its use of dirty or dangerous energy sources. CPS should put in writing its commitment to close the Deely coal-fired power plant by 2018 or earlier. The plant should be shut down as soon as possible, because the public has already paid too much in health costs.
  • CPS should prepare to close STP 1 and 2 (nuclear power plants) at the end of their original operating permits, if not earlier. This facility has been experiencing increasing problems, costs and risks as it ages. In fact, one of the units was inoperative for much of 2012 due to ongoing problems.
  • CPS must plan for decreasing use of natural gas-fueled power production. Although the actual combustion of natural gas may be less polluting than coal or petroleum fuels, the entire process of extraction, especially the use of fracking, is extremely polluting. The people of San Antonio should not have to pay for this relatively cheap non-renewable energy source by enduring air pollution, greenhouse-gas-induced heat waves, and other by-products of this CPS energy source. Until natural gas can be phased out completely as a fuel for CPS energy, CPS should buy gas only from producers following best practices and reducing pollution, waste and water use. By establishing standards to ensure that the gas it purchases, uses and sells is produced with the least polluting technologies all the way back to the well head, CPS can help establish new standards for the industry and reduce smog-forming ozone.
  • CPS must be pro-active in exploring and implementing technologies for genuinely renewable and environmentally friendly energy production to replace old, dirty, and dangerous energy sources. For example, CPS should investigate and procure geothermal energy production as a source of base-load renewable energy to meet the growth needs. Significant deep geothermal resources exist near San Antonio. CPS Energy should help develop these renewable and low-emission sources of energy for its generation portfolio. CPS Energy should update its generation plan and incorporate geothermal energy as part of its renewable contracts along with its large-scale investments in wind and solar energy.


The Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition includes Energia Mia, The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, People’s Power Coalition, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Public Citizen’s Texas office, and Sierra Club.