CPS Energy’s J.K. Spruce coal plant in Southeast San Antonio features a two-unit coal power plant that are the largest single greenhouse gas-emitting facilities in Bexar County.
CPS Energy’s Rate Advisory Committee recommends retiring the J.K. Spruce coal plant by 2028. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio community members have been calling on CPS Energy to shut down its last coal plant, J.K. Spruce, for years. 

As early as January, decision-makers will determine the future of Spruce and the rest of our power supply as part of selecting a new generation portfolio that guides how we get our electricity. 

Whatever CPS Energy decides, it will have consequences that will last for decades, setting our city on a sustainable path that embraces renewable energy sources like wind and solar or continuing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

It’s a significant step that CPS Energy’s Rate Advisory Committee (RAC), on which I sit, has been weighing.

The purpose of the RAC is to “devote the necessary time and energy to learn about the utility business and the rate design function to understand and provide thoughtful input and perspectives to CPS Energy Management and Board of Trustees on rate structure, rate design, proposed rate increases, and generation planning issues.”

Over the last several months, the RAC has pored over materials that would help guide a recommendation to CPS’s management and board on power supply while maintaining system reliability, climate resiliency, environmental sustainability, affordability, system reliability and workforce impact.

Earlier this month, the RAC voted to forward a recommendation to retire Spruce’s first coal unit in 2028, and the newer second unit would convert to natural gas in 2027. This option would also add solar and wind.

While adding solar and wind is good, converting the second Spruce unit to gas would be an unfortunate result.

As a member of the RAC, I need to remind our community of the dangers of continuing our reliance on fossil fuels, including natural gas. The high cost of volatile gas prices is hiking up our bills. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the majority of outages during Winter Storm Uri were due to the failure of natural gas, as widespread power outages left millions of Texans in the dark and freezing inside their homes for days.

There is a big opportunity for CPS Energy and the city to retire the coal plant and transition to clean and reliable energy from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. There are billions of dollars for CPS Energy, Bexar County, and the city to secure loans from the Department of Energy to not only shut the coal plant but also buy a clean energy replacement and clean up the dirty coal ash left behind. Officials can use these loans to invest in solar, wind, hydro, biomass or geothermal plus storage.

Municipal utilities can apply for direct credits when building clean energy resources to replace fossil fuel plants. The Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit can help CPS Energy recover investment costs for building any clean energy resource. Depending on where CPS Energy builds, the clean energy sources could qualify them for the Production Tax Credit. In addition, a 10% credit is added if CPS Energy makes clean energy sources with materials made in the United States.

Our utility and city can provide residents with clean, affordable and reliable energy by pursuing every federal dollar available. We also need to double down on federal funds to enhance energy efficiency and weatherization programs to reduce demand during peak times and save residents money on their bills. 

The time is right to ditch fossil fuels.

CPS Energy committed to the goals of the Climate Action Adaptation Plan in 2019 and must continue that path, but relying on natural gas won’t get them there.

A San Antonio powered by fossil fuels will one day be a thing of the past. Transitioning from one polluting fossil fuel to another is unwise and delays the inevitable.

DeeDee Belmares sits on the San Antonio Report’s citizen advisory board, and CPS Energy is a business member.

Avatar photo

DeeDee Belmares

DeeDee Belmares is Public Citizen’s climate justice organizer in San Antonio.