Full Accounting of Climate Plan’s Costs and Benefits Called for at CPS Energy Hearing

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From left, CPS Energy trustees Willis Mackey, Janie Gonzalez, Ed Kelley, and John Steen, and Chief Legal Officer Carolyn Shellman listen to the public at a hearing on a proposed climate plan.

Brendan Gibbons / Rivard Report

From left, CPS Energy trustees Willis Mackey, Janie Gonzalez, Ed Kelley, and John Steen, and Chief Legal Officer Carolyn Shellman listen to the public at a hearing on a proposed climate plan in February.

Multiple speakers at a hearing on a proposed plan to deal with global warming in San Antonio called for a better accounting of the plan’s financial implications to more fully understand its costs compared to business as usual.

Most of the individual speakers who signed up to address CPS Energy’s board of trustees at a hearing Monday at the Villita Assembly Building supported the overall plan’s goal of making San Antonio carbon-neutral. Several said the proposed target date of 2050 is too late and that the City and CPS Energy need to act quickly to stop rising temperatures.

However, leaders of local business organizations that represent thousands of members focused on the plan’s lack of financial details. Many of the shifts proposed in the plan could have significant economic implications, including a goal for CPS Energy to move completely away from coal and natural gas and for a transition to all electric and other carbon-free vehicles on San Antonio roads.

“If we are not careful, we may well be driving away jobs,” said Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. “Let’s remember that we have some very important companies here in San Antonio that are involved in the production, refinement, sale, and transportation of crude, refined, and component parts of oil and natural gas.”

At the outset of the meeting, which drew more than 100 people, City leaders strove to dispel the notion that acting on climate change means destroying the local economy and cracking down on individual liberties.

“I have seen environmental innovation spur jobs, spur new economies,” said Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), a supporter of the plan who has experience working in air-quality issues. “That is my hope for San Antonio.”

City Chief Sustainability Officer Doug Melnick told the crowd that the plan emphasizes finding ways that would work in San Antonio to make buildings more energy-efficient, moving CPS Energy further towards renewable energy, and providing better transportation options besides cars and trucks occupied by a only single person.

“The intent is not to take away anybody’s cars,” Melnick said. “What we are looking at is a market transition. What we are seeing is more and more electric vehicles on the road. … So the role of the city is more how do we provide more charging infrastructure, how do we incentivize or help support that transition.”

Paula Gold-Williams, president and CEO of the municipally owned CPS Energy, urged the utility’s customers to speak their minds about the plan and CPS Energy’s future. She acknowledged the gulf between the utility’s Flexible Path – a plan unveiled last year that calls for the continued use of coal and natural gas through 2042 – and the changes proposed in the climate plan.

“We look at the ways to provide power as reliably as we can,” Gold-Williams said. “Today we know what we know, and every year we see people across the globe make decisions and investments and research, and we see the industry changing. We’re going to need these decades to try to solve a lot of things because technology is not all in to make this an easy play.”

Most of the more than 35 who spoke at the hearing were in favor of action on climate. Speakers included members of environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen, and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, many of whom have said the plan doesn’t go far or fast enough to address the climate crisis.

Dee Dee Belmares, a field organizer and self-described “ecomadre” with Moms Clean Air Force, also asked for a full accounting of the costs and benefits associated with the plan.

“What we need now from CPS Energy … is for CPS Energy to determine the cost implications for the city to move from dirty, polluting, health-damaging fossil fuel use to clean renewable energy,” she said.

Belmares also suggested that CPS Energy start allowing public comments at its monthly board meetings, make meetings of its Citizens Advisory Committee public, and livestream all its meetings. All are common practices among other local government entities, including the San Antonio Water System.

CPS Energy officials have said that they intend to provide information about the costs of different “energy scenarios” sometime this spring.

City officials will also hold a public meeting about the climate plan on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Central Library at 600 Soledad St.

12 thoughts on “Full Accounting of Climate Plan’s Costs and Benefits Called for at CPS Energy Hearing

  1. Brendan Gibbons, were we at the same meeting? More than half spoke up against the plan. This plan was rolled out in December and there is no public time to talk about it, expenses in the plan without actual costs, mitigation costs put upon businesses, and relying too much on only solar and wind energy an unreliable source of energy. These were all brought out tonight by well prepared tax payers against the plan. CPS themselves spoke with hesitancy about the plan that would require wholly providing only these 2 energy sources. Those who spoke in favor were individuals who were already in environmental clubs or organizations that were on the steering committee. Bravo to the individuals who left their homes tonight to come to a congested downtown to park and speak against an ideology that is not backed by science any longer.
    http://www.moralcaseforfossilfuels.com/data/

  2. Hi Patty, thank you for reading. I counted 34 speakers at the event, 25 of whom expressed support for the plan’s overall goals. The plan was also released on Jan. 25, not in December.

    • A video announcement by Ana Sandavol was in December…….this CAAP plan (book form) was put together by a paid consultant and came out without the steering committee seeing it first, I doubt many then have even read it and why the fury over it has begun. Many of the 25 speakers, if not all of them, were individuals who served on the steering committee or from environmentalists clubs/organization. I can better appreciate the average citizen (who will be paying for this) for having come downtown to give a voice.

  3. By all means, do the economic studies and calculate the most effective route to meet or exceed the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. However, there should be no question that San Antonio must dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Business as usual leads to environmental, economic, and national security catastrophe. So put that on the other side of the ledger when doing any cost-benefit analysis.

    • Exactly what are the total emissions of SA? You say “leads.” Can you prove it? How much will you and your architectural buds personally profit from forced retrofit?

  4. R-Water

    512-808-4100

    There must be a few good scientists, inventors and investors in San Antonio that see this as opportunity. for new industry in our local economy. CPS Energy could make this a public/private initiative.

    CPS Energy and local business leaders, investors, entrepreneurs and environmental academia could form a public/private partnership to create a new environmental industry for the local economy. If successful, perhaps a portion of this revenue could go towards companies that suffer from the high cost of compliance.

  5. To Richard Perez and the Chamber of Commerce, I say, where is Valero, Tesoro and Marathon going to move? The world is moving to green energy at a rapid pace. Green energy is becoming cheaper and ubiquitous, world wide. It might be prudent for these companies to change the source of the energy and products they provide than to run away. Just as sure as the sun is going to rise tomorrow morning the green energy revolution is upon us. Adapt!

    • Your comments about green energy are not true. The world is moving to natural gas. I don’t think the companies need lectures from the lines of you.

      • https://www.forbes.com/sites/gauravsharma/2018/04/24/production-cost-of-renewable-energy-now-lower-than-fossil-fuels/#7729c596379c

        “In a recent note to its clients, Hamburg, Germany-based Kaiserwetter Energy Asset Management, wrote that its “internal analysis” – based on data from Bloomberg, The Frankfurt School, Renewable Cost Database of the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA) and UN Environment – puts fossil fuels generated energy costs in the range of $49 and $174 per MWh (Megawatt hours) in G20 energy markets in 2017.

        Over a comparable period, renewable energy production came in between $35 and $54 per MWh. Breaking the data down further, Kaiserwetter said the international average cost for hydroelectric projects were more than $50 per MWh, wind power was $51 per MWh, and photovoltaic solar energy was $54 per MWh on average.”

        https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/14/renewable-energy-world-power-source-bp

        “While oil took almost 45 years to go from 1% of global energy to 10%, and gas took more than 50 years, renewables are expected to do so within 25 years… In the event of a faster switch to a low carbon economy, that period comes down to just 15 years, which BP said would be “literally off the charts” relative to historical shifts.”

        “Renewables are expected to grow by 7.1% each year over the next two decades, eventually displacing coal as the world’s top source of power by 2040.”

    • If by green you mean LNG, then sure. You can’t feed, house and sustain your populace at an affordable price and abandon fossil fuels. You particularly can’t increase the population by a million people in twenty years, including many poor-sanctuary city, and build only green buildings and supply them with affordable utilities and food. You’re gonna have to decide what’s more important, hedging all your bets on climate models sixty years out or provide jobs, housing and utilities to all socio-economic stratifications in your city. You can’t pursue both. When you talk about green energy throughout the world, you’re talking LNG.

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