Beneby making mark at CPS Energy


Kathy Clay-Little
San Antonio Express-News

A green economy creating jobs. When President Barack Obama was running for president in 2008 and talked about the green economy being an economic generator, it really sounded like pie in the sky to many.

To a nation long accustomed to and long reliant upon fossil fuels to light, heat and cool their homes and buildings, prepare their meals and get them from point A to point B, the green economy was years in the future.

The future just moved miles closer in San Antonio with the recent announcement by CPS Energy that it has formed partnerships with five companies that will thrust San Antonio to the forefront of the green economy. Three of the five companies are moving their headquarters to San Antonio, along with about 120 immediate jobs.

And, to put an exclamation point to the announcement and let the San Antonio community know that it is moving full force ahead into a green energy economy, CPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby made another big announcement: CPS will be closing the J.T. Deely coal- fired plant by 2015, 18 years earlier than projected.

That, if nothing else, is an indicator of Beneby’s commitment to take CPS in a different direction, one significantly less reliant on fossil fuels.

Prior to coming to CPS Energy, Beneby worked for Exelon Power, in the private sector and not in the role of CEO. Stepping in the role of CEO of the nation’s largest municipally owned utility company, he faced some enormous challenges. Chief among them was restoring confidence in the utility after the debacle surrounding the South Texas Nuclear Project.

Beneby was hired in August and took the reins from Milton Lee on Sept. 1, so he’s been at the job less than a year. He’s already set the tone for where he is taking CPS Energy.

The marrying of a municipally owned utility with the area’s economic development is a big, bold step, one that some will say is outside the realm of what they want their utility company to be doing.

However, when one looks at what CPS Energy has invested in the South Texas Nuclear Plant and the relative benefits to San Antonio in terms of its economy, it seems that Beneby has carved out a new "right direction" for the utility in positioning it to be ahead of the curve in the coming green economy if it actually does turn out to be more than a pie in the sky dream.

While environmentalists are, no doubt, happy with Beneby this week for making such a huge commitment to green energy and closing the pollutant- spewing Deely plant, that honeymoon most likely won’t last forever.

When I interviewed Beneby earlier this year, he talked about the importance of diversifying CPS Energy’s sources of energy for its customers if San Antonio consumers are to continue to have low-cost energy and clean energy.

The energy that the Deely plant is generating will need to be replaced, and solar and wind energy are not at the point, nor are they likely to be so by 2015, that they can take up the slack.

Nuclear energy has to be a part of our city’s energy future, and Beneby has to lead us in that direction, too.

Kathy Clay-Little is publisher of African American Reflections.

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