Students of energy policy have long been familiar with the cry from activists: Government shouldn’t pick the winners and losers.

But the environmental movement, albeit with good intentions, is quite often guilty of that. Collectively, the environmentalists have told the electric utility industry, with varying degrees of vehemence, “We want wind and solar.”

As an afterthought, some environmentalists have acknowledged that there are other options, most notably nuclear and improved storage, and there is the possibility of new technologies or huge improvements in the known ones.

These deserve a hearing in the great sea change now taking place in electricity production.

Overselling Alternatives

Electric utilities want to reduce and end carbon emissions. But right now, they’re struggling with the overselling of alternatives when they don’t have enough essential backup in the form of storage. They also have the huge imperative of maintaining service — in lay terms, keeping the lights on.

CPS Energy
CMS
, San Antonio’s municipally owned electric and gas utility with over 860,000 electric and 358,000 gas customers, is putting its best big green foot forward, but wants to avoid being trapped into rigidity.

To that end, CPS Energy has canvassed the world, seeking ideas that will best deliver 500 MWe of new technology, 900 MWe of solar power and 50 MWe of storage. The new technology includes solutions for generation, conservation, and what the utility calls “firming,” which is backup for electricity generated from sun and wind.

In response to its July request for information (RFI), CPS Energy has received nearly 200 expressions of interest from around the world. That enthusiastic response affirmed the mantra of

Door-maker Steves & Sons Inc., one of San Antonio’s oldest businesses, began as a lumberyard near the Alamo.

Edward Steves started the enterprise in 1866 after emigrating from Germany.

He was bringing in “cypress from Louisiana and longleaf pine from Florida” by the late ’70s, and had relocated the business “near what would become the Sunset Station railroad tracks” and shipped his wares, according to San Antonio Express-News archives.

There is “not a habitation in southwest Texas or northern Mexico … that has not got one or more planks about it from the yards of Steves & Sons,” a local newspaper reported at the time.


The company eventually branched into doors and windows.

Employees produced aircraft propellers for the Army Air Corps during World War I and worked on Liberty ships during World War II. After the war, the business gave its profits to the government as thanks for the Steves sons’ safe return from military duty.

After the war, the business went back to making products for homes and continued to expand.

Today, Steves & Sons operates plants in San Antonio; Richmond, Va.; and Lebanon, Tenn. It employs between 1,100 and 1,400 people companywide, including about 800 workers in San Antonio.

The business recently began construction on a 100,000-square-foot addition to its Humble Avenue facilities.

The expansion and new equipment will help it ship more products and manufacture upward of 16,000 doors per day in San Antonio.

We talked to Sam Steves and Edward Steves, fifth-generation owners and brothers, about the biggest challenges facing the industry and how the coronavirus has affected the company. Sam is president and chief operating officer of the company, and Edward