Rudy D. Garza
President and CEO / CPS Energy
During the dog days of 2023, the hottest summer on record worldwide, CPS Energy – the official supplier in San Antonio, Texas, for electric and natural gas energy – suffered not a single power outage.
And now, CPS Energy is determined to continue that success through winter. As President and CEO of CPS Energy, the nation’s largest community-owned electric and natural gas utility, Rudy D. Garza has successfully led the company in its quest to provide dependable, affordable energy to residents of San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas, since late 2021.
“When I took the role over, we were in crisis mode,” Garza told CEO-North America magazine.
“The primary reason why I agreed to accept the role when I did was because we needed to stabilize the organization. CPS Energy is too important an entity to the San Antonio community to allow it to flounder and not be successful.”
Garza – an electrical engineering school graduate from the University of Texas in Austin who went on to complete a Master’s Degree in business administration at the University of North Texas, and the first Hispanic leader to serve as President and CEO of CPS Energy – said that, from the get-go, his commitment in the position was to “start the process of getting a good plan in place to carry us forward into the future.”
“I felt a responsibility to the community and to the organization to do my part,” he said. But accomplishing that goal was not easy for Garza, since when he assumed the CEO post, Texas was just recovering from the tail end of the pandemic, along with the effects of Winter Storm Uri that left thousands of Texans without power in February 2021 and had posed a challenge for every utility in the state.
“We hadn’t had a rate increase in eight years,” Garza added. “So financially, our metrics were suffering as a result of all that pressure.”
Consequently, Garza said that CPS Energy had no choice but to raise prices, a move that never goes down well with customers.
“We had to develop a plan that was going to deal with all the financial and operational challenges and at the same time would allow us to start rebuilding trust with our community,” he said. “We’d lost a lot of trust with our customers, and that’s not a good place for a publicly owned utility to be in.”
Garza’s five-year plan to stabilize CPS Energy and ensure a reliable platform for production in the years ahead was called Vision 2027, and it included the retirement of some older power units and their replacement by new technology with a greater generation capacity.
It also included a move away from coal to cleaner energy options and the addition of new technology to build efficiencies, as well as an investment in up to 500 megawatts of energy storage systems.
CPS Energy’s customers’ combined energy bills remain among the lowest of the nation’s 20 largest cities, while the company had favorable wholesale performance in fiscal year 2023. The company will use those funds to reinvest in the system, increase direct customer assistance and comply with new market requirements.
“Fortunately, we were able to stabilize our finances and get our budget process right,” Garza said. And with a consumer rate increase of just 3.85 percent in 2022, CPS Energy had about $75 million to begin its modernization and expansion plans.
In the years ahead, Garza said that CPS Energy will continue to service one of the fastest-growing territories in the country.
“San Antonio is growing in every direction right now, and we’ve got to invest. We’ve got to invest in our electric and gas distribution systems, and we’ve got to create resiliency from a transmission perspective,” he said.
Garza concluded by saying at CPS Energy will be investing billions of dollars over the next decade to keep the company at the forefront of the rapidly changing energy market.
“You’re either moving ahead or you’re falling behind. And in Texas, we’re growing. All of Texas is growing, and we are going to need to invest in order to serve the entire state,” he said.
“I want to make sure the CPS Energy is always ahead of that curve, and that’s really what our plan is intended to accomplish.”
Garza said that by working with CPS Energy’s consumers and taking into account their needs and limitations, the company has maintained its status as “one of the most reliable utilities in the state of Texas.” “The future is not going to wait,” he said.