CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold Williams speaks during an energy symposium.
Just a month after San Antonio adopted its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan
to curb fossil-fuel emissions, CPS Energy is weighing a no-bid contract to buy power-generating capacity at a natural gas plant.
At a board meeting Monday, CEO Paula Gold Williams said the city-owned utility needs up to 10 years of capacity to meet growing consumer demand. CPS Energy wants to sign contracts with an unnamed provider for two 250-megawatt blocks of capacity, one next year and the other in 2021. The deals would run through 2030.
"All we are trying to do is create additional capacity," Gold Williams said.
The contracts would not be part of an open bidding process that requires companies to compete on price and services. However, the utility plans a separate, competitive bidding process for more solar and battery storage capacity — both renewable power sources.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who sits on CPS Energy's board, countered that the utility should consider putting out a larger request for proposal that could integrate multiple options. That could potentially remove the need for using fossil fuels such as natural gas at all.
"Reliability is important, but also sustainability, security and of course emissions," Nirenberg said. "What's out there?"
Gold Williams downplayed the notion that CPS Energy would need the gas-plant capacity for all 10 years, adding that she would explore other options during that time. CPS officials also pointed out that gas burns cleaner than its existing coal facilities.
CPS has faced criticism for continuing to operate a pair of coal-burning plants that are among the San Antonio area's largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Beyond the environmental concerns, the no-bid nature of proposed CPS Energy contracts risks a waste of ratepayer money, said Kaiba White, a climate policy specialist with consumer group Public Citizen.
"Regardless of what kind of resource CPS chooses at the end, it should come out of a competitive and transparent process," she added.
White also warned that the utility's insistence on buying capacity at a natural gas plant rather than opening up bidding to a wider array of energy providers needlessly slams its door in the face of renewable sources.
"If it was an open process, I expect CPS would get quite a number of proposals offering a variety of options," she said.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.