CPS Energy to kick coal within 5 years

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s city-owned power utility expects to convert or close its remaining two coal plants by 2028.

The CPS Energy Board of Trustees voted 4-1 on Monday to pass a new power generation planning portfolio. The option it chose, known as “Portfolio 2,” was one of nine considered and would include a combination of gas, solar, wind and energy storage.

What the “blended” option deliberately excludes is coal, which means CPS Energy will close the Spruce 1 plant and convert Spruce 2 to a natural gas facility.

The divestment from coal-fired power has been a longtime goal of climate activists, but the victory has been tempered by the planned, continued reliance on natural gas for power generation. While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it also comes with methane emission issues.

The resolution the board passed gives the official deadline for getting rid of coal as 2030, but the utility plans to do it sooner.

CPS Energy CEO and President Rudy Garza says the aging Spruce 1 plant would need $150 million in environmental upgrades to run past 2027. So the plant will have to be closed by the end of that year.

“In between now and then, we can do the work we need to do to convert the Spruce 2 unit to natural gas,” he told KSAT Tuesday.

The utility previously closed its Deely coal-fired plant in 2019.

DeeDee Belmares, a climate justice organizer with Public Citizen, said shutting down the Spruce plant has been something community groups have fought for for many years.

“It’s a big polluter,” she said. “It’s good news for the air that we breathe.”

Belmares was also on the utility’s rate advisory committee (RAC), which reviewed the different portfolio options. Although the RAC ended up recommending Portfolio 2, Belmares had personally preferred other options with “cleaner resources to replace it.”

“We know that we need to cut our fossil fuel usage entirely, you know, over the next decade to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Belmares said.

The converted Spruce 2 unit is expected to run until 2065.

San Antonio adopted a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) in 2019 that aims for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Although the new portfolio will be enough for the city meet the plan’s 2030 benchmark, it won’t be enough to hit 2040′s or the ultimate goal in 2050.

However, Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who serves on the utility board, says the new portfolio “should not be viewed as a plan that’s put in place and we never have to come back to it. It’s going to be an ongoing process.”

“The reality is if we’re going to meet our reduction, our emissions reduction goals, we’re going to meet the goals of the cap. We have to continue to work at this year after year after year.”

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