Texas Utility CPS Energy Kicks Off Search for More Than 1GW of Clean Resources

San Antonio municipal utility CPS Energy wants to replace aging
fossil-fueled generation with more than a gigawatt of solar, energy
storage and flexible capacity, and it’s asking for ideas on�how
to get there. 

This week’s
request for information
(RFI) is an opening step toward meeting
CPS’ â€œFlexible
Path
†plan, which calls for an 80 percent non-carbon-emitting
energy portfolio by 2040 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by
2050. Responses will help inform options to meet its FlexPOWER
Bundle
 plan, which envisions adding about 900 megawatts of
solar, 50 megawatts of energy storage and 500 megawatts of “new
technology solutions†to replace the need for buying natural
gas-fired power from outside power plants.   

CPS has set an August 31 deadline for would-be resource
providers to respond to its RFI, and expects to solicit formal bids
through a request for proposals in early 2021. 

The new resources are needed over the next decade to help
replace about 1,700 megawatts of fossil-fired generation set for
retirement over that time. They’re also part of the utility’s
goal to increase its renewable energy capacity to half of its
generation mix by 2040.

CPS now gets about 22 percent of its electricity from about
1,000 megawatts of wind power and about 500
megawatts of solar
, with natural gas making up 46 percent of
its remaining portfolio, and coal-fired power another 18
percent. 

CPS closed two of its coal-fired plants in 2018 and has not
announced a retirement date for its two remaining ones. It’s also
planning to retire the aging Braunig and O.W. Sommers natural-gas
power plants. 

The utility’s call for 500 megawatts of “new technologyâ€
solutions seeks options to replace natural gas-fired power it had
planned to purchase on the grid markets operated by Texas grid
operator ERCOT. CPS backed away from its procurement plan in
February
 under community pressure to reduce its carbon
emissions but hasn’t defined just what technologies could meet
its needs for power to serve customers when wind and solar aren’t
available. 

“We are looking at this capacity altogether to ultimately
replace a power plant, so it has to be available when our customers
need it,†CPS Energy Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster
said at
the Monday meeting
 where the utility’s board approved the
RFI.  â€œIt could be natural gas, it could be long-duration
storage, it could be a technology we’re not even aware of right
now.â€

CPS will also be relying on getting about 16 percent of its 2040
energy needs from “flexible generation,†Paula Gold-Williams,
CPS president and CEO, said in a February presentation at the
DistribuTech conference in San Antonio. That’s essentially a
placeholder for technologies ranging from demand response to
flexible electric vehicle charging and necessitates heavy reliance
on the demand side of its portfolio to reach its goals. 

CPS serves more than 840,000 electric and 350,000 natural-gas
customer accounts, or about 1.9 million residents, and has already
instituted a broad set of commercial and residential demand
response
 programs that have successfully reduced peak load by
771 megawatts. It’s also testing out integrated solar-storage-grid
controls at its Fort Sam Houston
microgrid project
, funded by the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory’s Project Integrate, designed to investigate “plug and
play” solutions for a smart power grid. 

CPS also approved a “green tariff†program this week that
would allow large commercial customers to secure their own
renewable energy resources through long-term utility contracts. The
new tariff was supported by Microsoft, which operates a data center
in San Antonio it wants to power with cleaner energy. Similar
dynamics from
data center operators
like Google and Facebook have driven
clean energy tariff programs in other states. 

Texas municipal utilities CPS Energy and Austin Energy have both
set goals of becoming zero-carbon by 2050, making them outliers in
a state that has been getting an increasing amount of its energy
from renewables
 but which still lacks a statewide
carbon-reduction target. They are among a growing number of U.S.
utilities making such commitments, including Southern
Company
Duke
Energy
Arizona
Public Service
, NRG, PSEG, Xcel
Energy
Consumers
Energy
 and Alliant
Energy

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Texas Utility CPS Energy Kicks Off Search for More Than 1GW
of Clean Resources