While many are prophesizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) as doomsday for the electricity sector, Texas utilities are telling a different story. The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions from existing power plants. One utility in particular, CPS Energy in San Antonio, “has already embraced a low-carbon strategy that anticipates this rule,” making it the most well-positioned utility in the state, if not country.
Homegrown energy, literally
CPS Energy has excelled using its commitment to create local, clean energy jobs. In its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 400 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant, the utility included a specification for the creation of local solar jobs. And it worked. Most recently, the utility announced the launch of the Mission Solar Energy Plant – a 240,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will employ upwards of 400 San Antonians. To assist with future expansions, CPS also helped create a program at Alamo Colleges to train its future workforce for clean energy jobs and, admirably, almost one out of every five employees is a veteran.
Follow the jobs
CPS Energy is a national leader in its ability to recruit cleantech companies to San Antonio by tying the RFP to manufacturing. When the utility requests proposals for clean energy projects, it gives preference to companies willing to relocate offices to Texas – much like OCI Solar Power, the solar developer for the 400 MW Alamo solar plant. When CPS Energy selected OCI Solar Power to install the solar panels in San Antonio, the company moved its headquarters to San Antonio, bringing 800 permanent jobs and investing at least $115 million locally.
OCI Solar Power is not an outlier either. Consert Inc., a smart home energy management company, moved to San Antonio (and pledged to create 150 jobs) after CPS Energy selected the company to help reduce San Antonians’ electricity bills – by as much as 250 megawatts over the next four years, or enough energy to power 50,000 homes. So far CPS has recruited cleantech companies OCI Solar Power, KACO, Sun Action Trackers, Consert, and Greenstar for a total of 957 new jobs through its resource procurement process.
Not only is CPS Energy bringing more jobs to the city that can’t be outsourced, it is also saving money for residents and businesses. This is a win-win for everyone.
Time to take the bull by the horns
EPA’s Clean Power Plan presents an opportunity to grow and sustain Texas’ economy through clean energy. Much like CPS Energy has trail-blazed a new business model that serves its community in several ways, Texas needs to take the bull by the horns and create a plan that serves Texans and local industry. This is not rocket science and it’s not end-of-the-world superstition. The CPP is a smart policy well within Texas’ reach. All we have to do is amplify current trends – rely on more West Texas wind, take advantage of the state’s abundant natural gas supply, widen the use of Texas’ largely untapped solar potential, and use electricity more efficiently. We can start by looking at San Antonio and other progressive utilities in El Paso, Austin, and elsewhere, as well as by coupling Texas ingenuity with clean energy to give us more jobs and clean air. Let’s seize this opportunity, lest we lose economic growth to other states embracing the clean energy future.