The largest municipally-owned electric and gas utility in the U.S. will close its remaining coal-fired power units by 2030. The board of trustees for San Antonio, Texas-based CPS Energy on Jan. 23 voted 4-1 to approve a plan to shutter the last two coal-burning units at the J.K. Spruce power plant.
The plan, known as Portfolio 2 or P2, was outlined by the utility last November. The plan calls for the 560-MW Unit 1 at Spruce to be retired in 2027, with the 785-MW Unit 2 converted to burn natural gas beginning in 2028. Unit 1 was profiled by POWER in 2008; Unit 2 received a POWER Top Plant award in 2011.
The San Antonio City Council in October 2019 adopted a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which sets a goal for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050. CPS Energy, though moving to end coal-fired generation, already has acknowledged that San Antonio will not meet the CAAP goals under P2.
Net-Zero Carbon Emissions Goal
John Kosub, senior director of Energy Portfolio Analytics with CPS, earlier had said the utility “had a request from our board of trustees, to take a look at potentially discontinuing the use of coal by 2030. That is in support, to help the city of San Antonio reach their climate action and adaptation goals, which is net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.” Kosub has said the utility is working on a plan to maintain a reliable supply of electricity for the city while also meeting cleaner energy goals.
CPS in 2018 shut down two 420-MW coal-fired units at the utility’s J.T. Deely plant, 15 years earlier than originally planned. The utility in its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan had said it also would end the use of coal at the Spruce facility, though that was not confirmed until Monday’s approval by the utility’s board. CPS continues to operate several natural gas-fired units, and is a part-owner of the South Texas Project nuclear power station. CPS also operates the small Southwest Research Institute solar-plus-storage power project in San Antonio.
The only trustee to vote against the closure plan was John Steen, a former Texas secretary of state. Steen said he had concerns about increased rates for the utility’s customers. He also said he did not want the utility to incur additional debt; CPS is still involved in legal cases centered around $360 million in bills for natural gas the utility bought at elevated rates during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. The utility’s customers still have more $200 million in unpaid late bills.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who also is a CPS trustee and voted to approve the plan, said, “The fact is, San Antonio is ending the use of coal no later than 2028. I don’t think that’s a statement that we thought we would’ve been making at this point.”
—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).