Water and power commissioners pass carbon surcharge, energy rate hike

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Los Angeles Water and Power commissioners have approved a rate increase and a special charge for renewable energy. KPCC's Molly Peterson says the higher bills may help the city meet some lofty goals.

The board voted to raise the price of electricity 8-tenths of a penny per kilowatt hour. That would help the Department of Water and Power cover the cost of energy it's already bought and create a trust fund for investing in solar and wind power. The carbon surcharge is meant to fund what Mayor Antonio VIllaraigosa called a "lockbox" for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

It would also help L.A. meet the mayor's goal to wean the city away from coal. Villaraigosa promised to end LA's reliance on energy from coal within 10 years.

DWP board chair Lee Kanon Alpert said he believed doing nothing would risk lowering the utility's bond rating and cost the city tens of millions of dollars. "What is very striking to me is the risk and potential harm that will come to this department and to its ratepayers if we do not approve this increase," he said.

Within a year customers may see bills 8 to 28 percent higher. DWP activist and customer Jack Humphreville says he doesn't know enough about what the utility will do with the money. "I think they need to have a more moderate type of strategy, something where we know what's going on. they're talking in here about energy efficiency,18 thousand jobs, nothing but a blank check! We don't have details."

Now the LA city council will decide whether to hold its own vote on higher rates. If it doesn't, the rates take effect within months.