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The History of CPS Energy

World War II and San Antonio’s New Prosperity


By December 1943, more than 25 percent of CPS Energy employees had temporarily left the company to fight in World War II. The company soldiered on, helping the city stage blackouts to prepare for the possibility of hostile bombing raids. As demand for electricity and gas continued to grow citywide, CPS Energy took steps to protect its valuable employees, implementing a companywide safety program and affordable health and life insurance.

The end of World War II brought unprecedented levels of prosperity to San Antonio and the entire nation. With new construction techniques making widespread home ownership affordable, CPS Energy crews found themselves working overtime to install record numbers of gas and electric hookups. The utility had already lowered gas rates in 1944, and proceeded to simplify electric rates in 1948, encouraging new customers and saving ratepayers a combined $420,000.

Air conditioning achieved widespread use among San Antonians in 1949. Increased demand for electricity spurred CPS Energy to build its first new power plant since the days of SAPSCo., the Leon Creek plant, that same year. By 1950, the company's monthly revenues broke $1 million. The following year, the city refinanced the bonds with which it had purchased CPS Energy, freeing up more cash to build new power plants and sustain the city's growth.

The company built another new power plant in 1954, dedicating it months later in memory of William B. Tuttle, the utility's first general manager, who had died earlier that year. In 1955, CPS Energy introduced customer service by phone, attracting more than six and a half thousand calls in the first month alone. CPS Energy installed the downtown area's new streetlight system, a $750,000 project involving 640 miles of cable, in 1957. And 1959 saw the completion of the Villita Assembly Building on the former site of the original SAPSCo. generating plant.

In lieu of paying city taxes, CPS Energy began to increase the portion of its revenues returned directly to the city's budget. By 1960, the company paid 14 percent of its revenues to the city. Today, that contribution provides more than 25 percent of the city's annual budget. Since 1942, CPS Energy has provided $2.86 billion in revenue to the City of San Antonio.

Helping San Antonio Make Its Mark in the '60s

HemisFair construction

Throughout the 1960s, CPS Energy contributed infrastructure and power to many of San Antonio's most famous attractions. In 1964, we installed lighting and built transmission lines for the newly opened Natural Bridge Caverns. Four years later, we donated $1.2 million in engineering for HemisFair '68 -- the World’s Fair exposition, contributing to the construction of the Tower of the Americas, the Institute for Texan Cultures, and other local landmarks.

Even as we helped reshape San Antonio's skyline, CPS Energy has continued to build a foundation for its own future. The V.H. Braunig power plant opened in 1966, breaking ground in water conservation efforts by using treated wastewater, instead of drinking water from the aquifer, to cool its boilers. At the end of the decade, CPS Energy began filling a manmade Calaveras Lake, which became both a popular fishing and picnic spot and the site of many future power plants.

Engineering innovations supported the decade's fast-paced construction. CPS Energy crews began laying gas and electrical lines simultaneously, a process known as "joint trenching," which saved time, money, and wear on equipment. We also entered the computer age in 1966 with our first mainframe computer. Over the next few years, engineers used the computer and its successors to map out the city's growing power system and implement new mathematical models to predict demand.

Perhaps most importantly, we took further steps toward a diversified workforce in the 1960s. Three years before the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act, the utility launched a program to find and recruit gifted graduates from colleges with minority enrollment.

Greener and Cleaner in the 21st Century


Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium, we expanded our dedication to environmentally-friendly practices. The J.K. Spruce coal-fired power plant opened in 1992, built with more than $100 million worth of environmental regulation systems. Two years later, we responded to newly-toughened EPA standards by adding continuous emissions monitoring systems to each of our operating plants.

In 2000, we began asking customers to buy into a clean, wind-generated supply of electricity from wind farms across Texas. We later opened the super-efficient Arthur Von Rosenberg coal plant and continued our investment in state-of-the-art emissions controls at new and existing power plants. We also committed millions of dollars to energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial customers through rebate incentives.

The San Antonio metropolitan area continued to grow. In 2010, another coal-fired plant -- J.K. Spruce 2 – began operation with more than $250 million of the best available emissions-control equipment. At the same time, we continued to look to renewable energy to complement our diverse portfolio of fuels. Today, we have more than 850 megawatts of wind-generated electricity in commercial operation. We also have committed to solar energy, with 45 megawatts of sun power online and another 400 megawatts on the horizon through a landmark agreement with OCI Solar Power – the largest municipal solar project in the nation the boasts jobs and other economic development benefits for San Antonio.

CPS Energy continues to look at opportunities to provide affordable power. Through Casa Verde SA, thousands of eligible homeowners are being provided with weatherization upgrades designed to reduce their energy use and lower their bills. In 2012, we acquired the Rio Nogales natural gas plant in Seguin, Texas, making CPS Energy one of the first utilities in the nation to make a proactive transition from older coal-fired power to cleaner, natural gas-fired power. The plant also supports our strategy of diversification and risk management. CPS Energy customers also will continue to benefit from a generation portfolio that is heavily weighted in low-cost, cleaner traditional resources.
Throughout its history, CPS Energy has demonstrated a commitment to the people we serve. Reliable, affordable and clean energy remain our top priorities as we move into an even brighter future.