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Changing Behaviors Matter, For People and the Climate

By: Paula Gold-Williams

Psychologists Albert Ellis, Walter Mischel and B.F. Skinner coined the phrase, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” This phrase contextually has focused on helping us increase human productivity and the potential predictive accuracy of achieving execution success.


 To the contrary, at every level of society, we all need to move beyond the inherent limitations of prior behaviors. Respectfully, this includes the comprehensive behaviors of energy players, business leaders, policy makers, activists and yes, customers.


Actually, our energy challenge today is our history. For decades, power has been seamlessly provided in highly developed countries, often without widespread context or consequence. And while climate and seismic catastrophes create eye-popping headlines, most people do not experience extensive periods of energy disruption.


Behind the scenes, energy players are being compelled to transform. Converged developments such as federal, state and local renewable incentives, as well as the increasing interest from tech-enabled players, and more demands from customers are changing the energy landscape. One of the biggest changes being experienced now is the predominance of low marginal energy production costs that are creating an abundance of low power prices. Add in sparse instances of compelling peak pricing opportunities and this causes energy companies to challenge their business models, especially when contemplating future large, long-term capital investments (i.e., new power plants).


Even so, while price points are increasingly sub-optimized, the need for power is not declining. The need is actually morphing and growing. Due to personal prisms of ideology, there is a wide spectrum of customers who desire a broad range of value-based solutions. This translates into customers who want their service providers to create offerings that balance: flexibility, simplicity, reliability, and affordability.


SA Climate Ready, San Antonio Final 2016 GHG Inventory, August 28, 2018

One compelling way to move from ideology to reality is focusing on the practical application of solutions in a prime location; San Antonio, Texas is one such location. It is the seventh largest city in the United States and has a population of approximately 1.5 million people. Interestingly, it is an attractive and stable community that is expected to grow to approximately 2.4 million people within the next 20 to 25 years.


San Antonio has owned CPS Energy, its fully integrated energy company, for 76 years. The business owned by a community is currently evolving. It is optimizing its existing infrastructure to leverage an array of future investment decisions. Its diversified portfolio of energy includes notable levels of energy efficiency, wind, solar, nuclear, gas, and coal, as well as growing levels of energy storage. It has made significant progress in lowering San Antonio’s levels of carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen emissions. It has also made meaningful steps to lower methane.


SA Climate Ready, San Antonio Final 2016 GHG Inventory, August 28, 2018

Even though substantial reductions have been delivered, San Antonio was disappointed this past summer to receive a marginal nonattainment designation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this case, marginal nonattainment is the most minor designation given by the EPA, but a miss is a miss and the community is working to develop a balanced path forward.

Anticipating the need for more clarity about all of our community’s environmental challenges, CPS Energy, partnered with its owner, the City of San Antonio (COSA), the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and Navigant to conduct a baseline climate study as part of the work of SA Climate Ready. In addition to focusing on the specific geographic footprint of San Antonio, their assessment was generally expanded to cover the energy utility’s broader service territory.

SA Climate Ready, San Antonio Final 2016 GHG Inventory, August 28, 2018


Using the baseline results, San Antonio is now at a pivotal moment in its history – how to put together a set of goals that will create a sustainable, environmentally-sound future. Helping chart the future is CPS Energy. CPS Energy has developed a Flexible Path toward new energy solutions, while partnering to support a broader dialogue about opportunities to impact transportation and buildings. The discussions locally are understandably complex and passionate. Even so, CPS Energy leaders know there is no way to avoid them, and they are an integral part of the solution. Its team members are energy experts, and accordingly, are leaning in. They are active in the discussions that are being held across the community, with business people and environmentalists alike. CPS Energy is optimistic. Their leaders believe that working together through their People First foundation, the collective community will develop constructive solutions that are affordable and that solve problems. This journey will be shared; there is much more to come. 

Paula Gold-Williams is President & CEO of CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, the largest municipally owned, vertically integrated electric and natural gas company in the nation. Paula leads its more than 3,000 team members with the vision she has coined, People First, where CPS Energy is evolving its efforts to create and deliver value to its customers, community, and employees into a new age of energy solutions.

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