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CPS to take lead role in burying CPS


Mayor's assistant Larry Zinn caught a prominent mention during the State of the City speech and later led the discussion on what the heck Mission Verde is — and isn't.


Greg Harman
gharman@sacurrent.com

Post Mayor Phil Hardberger’s State the City Address and the steady dispersal of the lunchtime enthusiasts, those suffering from severe, incurable hungering for low-carbon reality lurched down to City Hall and drew up sideline perches for the City Council’s B Session.

Through more (brief) mayoral comments and a stream of details from Hardberger’s enviro policy wingmen, the finer points of Mission Verde were cracked open and examined.

It appears to very starting blocks of this energy revolution, with the stunning beauty of a iron-rich rock unexpectedly fallen from the sky (though in process for a year, according to the mayor), is decentralized power. Check my last post for my personal reaction.

I missed the last CPS Energy Board meeting and haven’t read anything about the new face of the utility, that until this moment I’ve considered nothing more than a coal- and nuke-loving, employee-battering, overly secretive and centralized behemoth. Wow. My bad. Didn’t know Damascus Road passed this way.

Honestly, I’m still having trouble digesting the fact that our utility’s leadership adopted a simply revolutionary resolution in favor of moving to a decentralized power model. Now it doesn’t change the fact their spokesperson still doesn’t return my calls, but it’s a powerful start to the utility gaining face in this town — at least on my side of town.

Land sakes! — as in, “for the sake of our land!” — loosen up your oculators and peer into this statement:

In alignment with its Agenda and Focus, the CPS Energy Board of Trustees believes:

* a portfolio of conventional energy generation sources - nuclear, coal, natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation - will begin to transition CPS Energy from centralized to distributed generation, thereby promoting energy independence from the ERCOT grid.

* such a transition will be supportive of the Mayor's sustainability initi3tive for the City of San Antonio, and it will be in sync with our Strategic Energy Plan as well as our Vision 2020 strategic planning initiative toward a more-sustainable future.

* Greater San Antonio can become a national pacesetter in a Third lndustrial Revolution scenario that, according to Mr. Rifkin, "brings with it a new era of 'distributed capitalism' in which millions of existing and new businesses and homeowners become energy players. In the process, we will create millions of green jobs, jump start a new technology revolution and dramatically increase productivity, as well as mitigate climate change."


Of course, this is the same utility that — with the Mayor’s approving vote — agreed to commit another $60 million to the fiscal black hole cum environmental disaster known as nuclear power. But if they can agree to put themselves out of business through decentralization — anything MUST be possible!

This model by which homes and businesses will be producing their own power that then feeds back into the grid for others to use will be actively undercutting the argument for new nukes (or clean coal, for that matter, depending on the speed of deployment and tech improvements).

While the plan will be online soon, here’s a bit from the plan as distributed to Session B attendees:






Judging from the B Session response to Verde, when Hardy and company tumble their tablets down the mountain into Council laps, the cabal of low-carbon future shockers will likely get a warm reception. But give council members the benefit of a few weeks worth of briefings to process things first.

Amazing that what had been a stranger to San Antonio politics and politicians until just a few months ago — just a few days ago, in some cases — is now being celebrated seamlessly by the team of decision-makers gathered downtown.

A briefing hits us, thus:

“Putting solar on 10 percent of housing stock would generate 250 megawatts – about one-third of Spruce Two.” It means “$30 million in energy savings,” require a thousands jobs to accomplish, reduce CO2 by 250,000 tons per year, and be the equivalent of taking 40,000 cars off the road.”

Heads bob up and down. Faces smile.

I assume their solar arrays are larger than the mini’s I was imagining when I wrote back in October of 2007:

… factor in a modest solar array, for instance, on just 10 percent of our homes. Place on a roof one of the smallest single-kilowatt systems, which generate (according to CPS’s website) about 1,600 kilowatts each year. Multiply that by 67,000 homes (10 percent of CPS’s 677,000 customers) and we’ve saved another 7.2 megawatts.

If half our homes had a single-kilowatt array, we’d cut out more than 540 megawatts and be delivering as much power as a state-of-the-art coal-fired power plant.

At current market rates (roughly 10 grand installed), 67,000 solar arrays would run $670,000,000 — $990* per utility customer. Surely there’s a good bulk order rate out there.

Partnered with the aggressive conservation savings … San Antonio could be powering 870,000 homes before the nuke plants go online.


Unfortunately, the federal funds that seemed so certain a week ago are being doggedly fought by Capitol Republicans, offering another wave of tax breaks as PR countermeasure.

MoveOn.org is trying to rally the troops for a big ad push on the Senate to keep the stimulus moving.

We’ll see where all that leads. It would be comically tragic to see our municipal momentum reach such perfect parity with the long-anticipated Green New Deal only for ideological squabbles to dash it all. Ah, but no one said it would be easy.

“San Antonio has yet to reach its greatness,” Hardberger told us in the State of the City, which closed a little too idyllic for my taste. Heck, wouldn't we drive anyone out of town who dared suggested otherwise? What’s the alternative to approaching the plateau? (Let’s hope it’s not a precipice.) That would be the decline, wouldn't it?

Whatever our position, there really is only one way forward. If we have the opportunity to be mean, green, and “teenage,” rippling with possibility, all the better.

With Verde, the course appears set, though it will be up to us as a city to make sure each step is understood, the benefits weighed, and potentially decimating pitfalls avoided.

From the Left Field Department, I would humbly suggest that one way to increase popular participation and create positive movement is to avoid another Alamocentric history book for this year's One Book, One San Antonio campaign. Instead, let's get the city reading Jeremy Rifkin, Amory Lovins, Ori Brafman.

It’s time to get versed on community power. And it’s time to get happy about burying CPS (again).

---

Here are a few of the questions, observations, comments that met Hardberger and crew at the end of the day from attending councilmembers:

Delicia Herrera, District 6 Councilmember, worried about the tech divide separating low-income residents from plan details, free weatherization opportunities, and (we flatter ourselves) this blog. To make sure Mission Verde crossed to a new mayoralship in one piece, she jokingly elbowed City Manager Sheryl Skully for a 15-year contract.

Diane Cibrian, District 8 Councilmember, spoke in support of various aspects of the plan, calling it “real brilliance,” and advocating fast-tracking of the smart grid, distributed energy portion.

Justin Rodriguez, District 7 Councilmember wanted to make sure the energy audits used to gauge city savings were being performed for a third party.

Departing District 9 Councilman Louis Rowe called Verde “an excellent document” and said the stimulus funds, if they come, must create a legacy — “other than a legacy of debt… I think this will do that.”

District 10 Councilman John Clamp, who will seek a second term primarily to bird-dog CPS Energy, said he wanted to make sure that the City would be able to make Verde’s benefits more clear to typical homeowners and taxpayers.

Posted by gharman on 1/29/2009 5:18:11 PM
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