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CPS conservation plan is good for ratepayers

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board

Saving energy is cheaper than building new power plants. That’s the simple fact behind CPS Energy’s ambitious plan to save 771 megawatts of power by 2020.

The utility says those savings will allow it to avoid building one new plant. CPS has invested $849 million in its Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan. By comparison, the new Spruce 2 coal-fired plant that generates 775 megawatts of power had a price tag of $1 billion — before maintenance and operating costs.

A major component of STEP is weatherizing homes. Improving insulation and reducing air escape around windows lowers energy demand for the utility and energy bills for customers.

Weatherization programs paid for by federal stimulus funds have run into serious problems around the state, including here in Bexar County. The head of the program run by the Alamo Area Council of Governments is accused of falsifying documents to show the program was meeting state-mandated weatherization targets.

Express-News staff writer Tracy Idell Hamilton reported that the weatherization program run by CPS with $12.4 million in stimulus funds has weatherized more homes than any other city in Texas. CPS has spent $5.2 million of those funds and completed weatherization work on 54.5 percent of the 2,200 low-income homes it has targeted.

Under STEP, CPS will budget as much as $156 million for improved energy efficiency in low-income homes over the next decade. The utility’s success on a smaller scale with the stimulus weatherization effort — a state overseer described it as a model program — bodes well for STEP.

Utilities have traditionally looked at electricity as a commodity— the more of it, the better. By treating energy as a resource to be conserved, CPS can take the burden off ratepayers by reducing the need to invest in costly new power plants.

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