Damn natural gas.
We just have too much of the stuff, and that’s driven down profits at one of the city’s biggest cash cows: CPS Energy. To keep the city’s 14-percent cut of CPS profits from growing too anemic, CPS has plans to raise your rates by more than 9 percent in the spring, CPS Chief Financial Officer Paula Gold-Williams told the CPS Board of Directors on Monday. But don’t worry, once the Spruce Two coal plant comes online later in the year, they may credit you back a dollar or two.
Her other message was that nuclear expansion — that $5.2 billion bugaboo that has the city overheating — was not the only reason for expected rate increases deep in the next decade.
“If we decided not to do that, you’d still have pressure, no matter what option you choose,” Gold-Williams said.
But if the City Council gives CPS the all-clear later this month to take out anther $400 million in debt service to keep to the nuclear path, there will be unanticipated victims.
Specifically: planned installation of scrubbers for the old coal plants that would help limit high-ozone days, heart attacks, and new cases of asthma by eliminating the bulk of the sulfur dioxide coming out of the stacks. These scrubbers — supposedly paid for in that infamous 3.5-percent rate increase back in 2008 — would be have to wait “a year or so,” said Gold-Williams.
Still, don’t blame nuclear.
It’s becoming something of a mantra around CPS. Nuclear, even at $5.2 billion for a 40-percent share, is “only one tool in the toolbox.”
Yet a year later CPS haven’t been able to sell down from a 50-percent share to its recommendation of 40-percent.
It got worse at Monday’s meeting as both CEOs Milton Lee and Steve Bartley described the nuclear play as “a bridge” between traditional power sources and the renewable, non-polluting sources expected to take the lead in the 2020s.
While CPS’s leadership doesn’t think renewable sources can boost the city over the coming projected energy shortfall of 2020, the following energy crunch is a different story.
CPS Energy’s chief sustaina-dude Cris Eugster drove home reminded the board that the utility plans to retire six gas turbines in the 2020s, losing roughly 2,200 megawatts in the process. Aging coals plants will lurch into the tomb in the early ’30s. Good riddance, an’ all, but what’s going to keep the lights on?
By adding in 1,000 megawatts of green tech — conservation plus on-site solar, wind, and biomass — the city would just about meet that 2030 gap — if we can figure out a good way of storing that solar and wind power. Storage was treated just shy of metaphysics in the discussion, but it can’t be lost on our utility that other cities and utilities are already using compressed air, pumped hydro, and batteries.
Of course, many on the green scene have been arguing these solutions could meet not just the 2030 gap, but the 2020 projected power gap that CPS plans to plug with nuclear.
Green power? Meet San Antonio-style hesitancy.
“We don’t want to go bet on a lot of things,” Eugster told the board. “We want them to prove themselves out.”
That brings us to the long-awaited white paper from efficiency guru Jeremy Rifkin (left, in San Antonio earlier this year).
The Express-News has announced the full cost of the contracted Rifkin plan ($16 billion to $20 billion), and Eugster’s presentation mentioned 16,000 green-collar jobs by 2030 pursuing efficiency, but the Rifkin report promises even more.
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