Alamo Plaza got a little brighter in 1860 when San Antonio’s first light bulb was turned on near the city’s post office – decades before Thomas Edison debuted his electric generator in New York and cities across the nation started investing in this new thing called electricity.

CPS Energy will continue to look ahead at emerging technologies and renewable energy, CEO Paula Gold-Williams said. “When you put both of those movements in technology together, they’re going to merge inside the energy industry. … It’s going to change how you access things, and it’s going to change the world.”

Utility officials and advocates gathered Tuesday to celebrate CPS Energy’s long history in the community; it’s been 75 years since the City of San Antonio purchased the privately owned local electric utility. CPS Energy is now the largest municipally owned gas and electric company in the nation.

Many agreed at the time that the $34 million purchase of San Antonio Public Service Company, about $617 million in 2017 dollars, would save the city money in the long run, local author Catherine Nixon Cooke said. That later proved to be the “understatement of the century.”

The utility has provided an estimated $7 billion to the City’s general fund over 75 years, according to utility reports. The money funds vital public safety, infrastructure, parks, and more.

Cooke spoke at the anniversary celebration at the Marriott Rivercenter in front of about 1,000 local leaders and employees of the utility. Organizers estimate about $200,000 was raised during the event, which will go towards paying low-income customers’ electric bills through the Residential Energy Assistance Partnership (REAP) program.

CPS Energy commissioned Cooke to write a history of the utility, Empowering a City, that was given to sponsors of the luncheon.

The utility also debuted a mini-documentary about the utility’s past, present, and future:

If Edison walked into CPS Energy today, Gold-Williams said, he would likely be able to recognize what’s going on. There’s still generation sources connected to residential and commercial customers. But as CPS Energy and other leading utilities invest in more renewables, distributed generation, battery storage, smart meters, and other real-time data resources – it could be unrecognizable in a few short years.

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at