Patt Morrison for June 23, 2011

Here’s why your DWP bill is about to go up

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David McNew/Getty Images

The Department of Water and Power (DWP) San Fernando Valley Generating Station is seen in Sun Valley, California.

Everybody loves renewable energy, who wouldn’t unless you’re an oil or coal executive? But green power comes with a price tag, and as had been promised for the past few years, customers of the Department of Water & Power are about to pay it. DWP’s new general manager is proposing annual rate increases of 5% for water and power services over the next three years, money they claim is needed to comply with new environmental regulations and protect its credit rating. While the additional revenue will cover mandates to move L.A.’s municipal power provider away from coal and deliver 33% clean energy by 2020, there is yet more money that needs to be spent in the next few years to upgrade aging utility infrastructure. More green—green in terms of the environment and in terms of the great expense—programs will also be implemented in the near future, such as moving away from the use of ocean water to cool power plants (resulting in big “dead zones” off the Southern California coast).

All of which means that the 5% annual rate hike might just be the beginning. Debates over rate increases have proved contentious and this round might not be any different, with the unfilled job of ratepayer advocate looming over both the DWP and the L.A. City Council. Councilwoman Jan Perry said she would not approve rate hikes until the city hires the voter-mandated position of ratepayer advocate. DWP claims that its customers have had it good over the past 10 years, averaging much smaller rate increases as compared to other California utilities. We bring the general manager of the DWP to talk about the future of water and power in Los Angeles, and the future of your bill.

Guest:

Ron Nichols, general manager of the Department of Water & Power


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