Environment & Science

DWP seeks comments on road map for energy

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Where Los Angeles’ power comes from and how much it costs is the subject of a new report the L.A. Department of Water and Power has commissioned. The DWP's opening public debate on the city's energy future.

With a rotating cast of general managers and a constant and tense debate with L.A. city officials, the public opinion forecast for the Department of Water and Power has been cloudy. But as the DWP aims to get more renewable energy online, commissioner Jonathan Parfrey says truly cloudy skies have helped the utility close in on a goal of 20 percent renewables by year's end.

"We've had a very moderate summer so we haven't had to fire up our peakers as much as we thought we would," he told a crowd of about 100. "And we had a very wet winter, so our small hydro plants in the Owens Valley have been delivering clean and green energy into the city on a regular basis."

DWP officials have released a draft integrated resources plan – sort of a road map for where they'll take L.A.'s energy strategy in the decades ahead. Every California utility does this, and all of them try to navigate the cheapest route through greenhouse gas reduction rules and pollution limits at the state and local levels.

Evan Gillespie is with the Sierra Club's “Beyond Coal” campaign. "The Department of Water and Power talks a lot about the regulations they're confronting. Those are very important," he says. "But I think this is a really critical opportunity for us to set a standard for environmental leadership around the country."

At the kickoff workshop, groups formed in six rooms in the DWP's basement floor at its Hope Street headquarters. "There's a law on the books right now, SB 1368, passed fairly recently, that says we cannot get new contracts for high greenhouse gas emitting power sources, which means when those contracts expire we have to find a replacement for them," says Bill Glauz.

Glauz is the DWP's manager for solar energy development. He's explaining six different candidate plans the department's putting up for debate. Some emphasize solar power, some emphasize wind.

With L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa saying he wants to wean his city from coal power, moving toward any of these portfolios could cost as much as 25 percent more over 20 years in today's dollars. Glauz says that’s why ratepayers’ views hold political sway.

"They are very, very interested in hearing what the community has to say on this. Our city council people and our commissioners can't do this in a vacuum," he says, looking around the room. "Any other questions?"

DWP will convene six more meetings to answer questions and field opinions from Angelenos in the coming months. The final plan will point the DWP toward major projects – and toward possible rate hikes to pay for them.

The plan's available on the Web at lapowerplan.org.