The City of San Antonio, with its municipal utility CPS Energy, has taken strides in developing its clean energy portfolio, which currently stands at 16% and is well-positioned to grow further. CPS Energy is already the state leader, and seventh nationally, in solar capacity with 229 megawatts in commercial operation. San Antonio has a 20% renewable energy goal by the year 2020, and an unofficial goal of 40% by 2040, in accordance to the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan.
CPS Energy owns solar farms (such as the Alamo 5 Solar Farm, 95MW), runs a highly successful solar rebate program, offers a community solar option (“Roofless Solar”), and enables customers to host solar installations (SolarHostSA). The latter two are pilot programs that CPS expects to grow rapidly. Further, CPS Energy is purchasing an additional 450MW of solar energy from OCI Solar by the spring of 2017. Nevertheless, coal remains a significant portion (34%) of CPS’s portfolio, along with nuclear (35%) and natural gas (15%). The cost of power in San Antonio is relatively low – the average residential rate of 10.66 cents/kWh.
- CPS Energy formulated a strategy, The New Energy Economy, to entice “new energy” companies and partners to San Antonio by leveraging its substantial buying power.
- CPS Energy partnerships include a groundbreaking agreement with OCI Solar Power to supply 400MW of solar power to San Antonio and the surrounding area and bring solar manufacturing to the region. The agreement mandated the creation of at least 800 jobs and a $100 million capital investment over five years.
- In 2014, the country’s first N-type solar panel manufacturer, Mission Solar Energy, located its facility in San Antonio under incentives provided by CPS Energy. The highly efficient N-type solar panels lend themselves more readily to residential use where space is limited.
- The STEP program from CPS Energy has provided a multi-year funding mechanism for Solar Rebates, alongside offerings of energy efficiency for customers and CPS Energy’s engagement in the “Simply Solar” program, which has two aspects: Roofless Solar and Solar Hosting.
- As part of a smart grid initiative roll out, CPS Energy deployed a mesh network and achieved two-way communication with customers via their electric and gas meters. This allows CPS and consumers to use detailed data at 15-minute intervals to make energy use changes as required, identify when outages occur and remotely reconnect customers.
- Education, affordability and access are challenges that face the San Antonio transition to renewable energy.
- Developing fair pricing to customers that allows CPS Energy to fully recover costs.
- Managing the impact of intermittent supply of solar on CPS Energy’s distribution grid.
- CPS Energy customers being charged a wide disparity in pricing for private ownership of distributed generation.
- Lack of solar options for low-income customers.