New Sierra Club study gives San Antonio's CPS Energy a failing grade on climate goals

Climate activists, including members of the Sierra Club, rally in front of City Hall in 2019. - Sanford Nowlin
Sanford Nowlin
Climate activists, including members of the Sierra Club, rally in front of City Hall in 2019.
A new Sierra Club research report has slapped CPS Energy, San Antonio's city-owned utility, with a failing grade for its reluctance to back away from fossil fuels and help reverse climate change.

The study, which analyzes the investments of the nation's 50 largest utilities, gave CPS Energy a score of 6 out of 100. Researchers examined companies' plans to stop burning coal, halt investments in new gas plants and commit to renewable energy sources.

CPS had no immediate comment on the report. However, the utility's leadership maintains that it's obligated to strike a balance between investing in renewables while ensuring reliability and affordability for customers.

The Sierra Club said CPS's refusal to commit to a retirement date for its J.K. Spruce coal plant factored heavily in its failing grade. Utilities must close all coal plants by 2030 and commit to renewables to adequately curb greenhouse gas emissions, the study's authors argue.

Environmental groups have repeatedly called on CPS to shutter the Spruce plant, which emitted some 7 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019.

At its Monday board meeting, the utility said it would consider closing the site early but declined to publicly reveal details about how that could happen, the Express News reports. Specifically, the board voted to withhold a document detailing the potential financial impact of moving up the closure schedule.

The Sierra Club study does gives CPS credit for issuing a request for proposal, or RFP, for an additional 900 megawatts of solar capacity. However, the utility got no credit for another 500-megawatt RFP where it didn't narrow the scope to renewables only.

If CPS Energy commits to retiring all coal operations by 2030, the utility would jump from the bottom quarter of the rankings to the top half, Sierra Club officials said. 

"[CPS] claim to abide by a ‘People First’ philosophy, yet they seem most interested in a certain class of people — specifically, those sitting at the head of the table at the Chamber of Commerce banquets,” Sierra Club Clean Energy Organizer Greg Harman said in a written statement.

“Without CPS making meaningful commitments now, our city has no chance of meeting its own carbon-reduction targets by 2030, much less the steeper reductions that are required, as evidenced by the unraveling of global systems all around us.”

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.


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