As San Antonio city leaders prepare to vote on the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) this week, one topic has been missing in the discussions about the Alamo City’s future: cost.
Local business leaders, including the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and several of the city’s largest employers, have voiced opposition to the plan for the significant increases it will cause in the price of electricity. New research from the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows converting San Antonio to 100% renewable energy would raise the average San Antonio family’s electricity costs by more than $1,000 a year—yet provide no environmental benefit.
San Antonians see through the CAAP’s lofty promises and recognize that it will needlessly drive up the cost of living. When surveyed about whether CPS Energy should procure its electricity from expensive and inefficient zero-carbon energy sources, more than half of San Antonio residents opposed the CAAP. And when asked how much they would be willing to pay to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, nearly half said “nothing.”
Yet the mayor and city council are prepared to force over $1,000 in extra costs—not including tax hikes to pay for new and less-efficient energy infrastructure—down their constituents’ throats.
But cost isn’t the only problem. Physical limitations will prevent San Antonio from achieving the CAAP’s goals with renewable energy and electric vehicles. However socially conscious renewable power might sound, its unreliability and massive land requirements make it impractical at best.
Turning San Antonio 100% carbon-free would require 700,000 acres of solar panels, wind turbines, and transmission lines—more than 2.5 times the size of the city! That’s nearly 10 times the amount of land currently used to power San Antonio.
And that doesn’t include the space and materials required for battery storage, a critical component for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The entire nation’s projected battery storage capacity in five years, despite tremendous forecasted growth, wouldn’t be enough to keep the lights on in San Antonio for even an hour of peak demand.
Even if the city managed to clear these insurmountable hurdles, it would be for no avail. Eliminating all manmade greenhouse gas emissions in the entire country by 2050 would only reduce global temperatures by 0.126°C in 2100, according to data models used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. San Antonio’s billion-dollar-plus initiative wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket.
The CAAP’s renewable energy goals aren’t worth the cost, unreliable power, and massive land destruction. Instead of benefiting the environment, the CAAP will needlessly strain San Antonians’ pocketbooks, just as has occurred in every community that’s tried to mandate 100% wind and solar energy.
The city of San Antonio will likely counter this criticism by claiming the CAAP is not intended to be a mandate. That rebuttal is mere wordplay: imposing expectations on city planners and staff is essentially a mandate, a justification for future policy changes that will cost more taxpayer dollars. If this exercise was really intended to be a non-binding recommendation, ratifying a formal plan wouldn’t be necessary at all.
The CAAP is just political posturing. Instead of forcing higher energy costs and higher taxes on the people of San Antonio, the city’s leaders should drop the CAAP and allow their constituents the freedom and flexibility to better their families, businesses, and community without additional financial burdens. The city should embrace the power of reliable, affordable, abundant energy to continue growing the economy, fighting poverty, and providing a better quality of life for San Antonio.