Coal, oil, and natural gas poison our land and air and change our climate. In San Antonio, outdated fossil fuels emit nitrogen oxides that produce ozone pollution in excess of federal air quality standards along with climate altering greenhouse gases. Ozone and air pollutants are toxic to breath, causing asthma and respiratory illness in the most vulnerable members of our population.
Now, clean energy resources exist that can replace fossil fuels. Wind turbines, solar panels, and energy storage technology have seen a boom in recent years with prices plummeting and people employed in the industry on the rise. Meanwhile, demand-side solutions reduce our use of electricity altogether through household energy efficiency, battery storage, rooftop solar, and by requiring more energy efficient construction codes for buildings. San Antonio has an opportunity to place itself at the forefront of clean energy adoption to clean up its air and bring local manufacturing jobs back to the city. Here are some statistics on the industry’s rise:
- Solar prices have fallen 70% since 2009 (1)
- Wind supplied over 20% of all energy on Texas’ electric grid during 2017
- 56 U.S. cities have already committed to 100% clean energy (2)
- Jobs in solar and wind in the US outnumber those in coal and natural gas, 672,000 to 558,000
In 2009, the city of San Antonio, led by Mayor Phil Hardberger, officially began the “Mission Verde” initiative with a vision to transition the city toward a 21st century economy. The plan’s primary aim was to promote the resources required for a 100% clean energy system as a method of bringing new business and new jobs to the city, making San Antonio a hub for these burgeoning technologies.
As part of this plan, the city and CPS Energy began the Saving Tomorrow’s Energy Plan (STEP) which committed the utility to reduce San Antonio’s electricity consumption during peak hours by 771 MWs by 2020 – the same amount a coal power plant can produce to power roughly 300,000 homes – including large investments in rooftop solar and energy efficiency programs. CPS Energy additionally signed an agreement for at least 400 MWs of large-scale solar farms. To date, they’ve exceeded that goal and have 450 MW of solar in operation, enough to power about 75,000 homes.
Over the past eight years, the visionary Mission Verde plan has indeed brought jobs to the city. The solar foundation estimates that 1,566 people in Bexar county are currently employed by just the solar industry. That number has nearly tripled from the 572 residents the industry employed as recently as 2015 (3). But while San Antonio has committed resources to clean energy, the city has not quite fulfilled the vision of Mission Verde to truly transition into the clean energy economy of the future. The utility’s solar assets total only about 2% of all electric generation, while coal and gas provide nearly 70% of San Antonio’s power.
The future belongs to clean energy. The safety of our children and elders at home and the urgency of global environmental destruction demand a rapid energy transition to clean sources. It’s time that San Antonio commits to truly join the rising tide of renewable resources and become the leader we know it can be.
Top image courtesy of CPS Energy. For information about what programs San Antonio’s City-owned utility has available, see this page.