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DWP v. PG&E

LA WATCHDOG--We have been critical of our Department of Water and Power, in large part because City Hall views the Ratepayers as an ATM to finance its operations and pet projects. 

We have also experienced higher than expected bills because the new tiered rates target owners of single family residences.   

But thanks to the dedicated employees of DWP who provide us with reliable power and clean water, we have not been victimized by major outages or public service power shutdowns experienced by the customers of Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, the two largest utilities in the country.

This is not to say that DWP is perfect.  Certain neighborhoods have experienced multiday outages during last summer’s “heat storms.”  Fortunately, the Department responded to these outages with emergency crews at all hours of the day.  The Department has also been responsive to our complaints by meeting with the impacted communities, taking the time to explain the problem, whether it be aging infrastructure or some drunk slamming into a power pole.

The number one priority of the Power System is reliability, as it is for every utility in the country, whether it be investor or municipally owned. But the reliability of the Power System is being threatened by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to rely on 100% renewable power and the phase out of the Department’s three gas fired coastal power plants at the same time that significantly more power will be needed to meet the demand for the electrification of the transportation and building sectors.

In the past, the three coastal power plants (Scattergood, Haynes, and Harbor) have been a reliable source of in-basin electricity, especially when delivery from the Department’s transmission lines has been curtailed. Otherwise, it would have been lights out, an unacceptable alternative as we have seen in PG&E and Edison territory.     

To help ensure greater reliability, an alternative plan is to have the three in-basin coastal generation facilities serve as a back-up in case of transmission line interruptions, surges in demand, or potential power outages.  And rather than measure reductions in emissions from just DWP, the City should include the savings from the transportation and building sectors that result from the increase reliance on electricity.  Overall, the savings from DWP and the transportation and building sectors will far exceed the savings from DWP relying on 100% renewables.

While some purists will object to any plan that includes the use of natural gas, the number one priority of the Power System is reliability, a priority supported by the men and women of our Department of Water and Power. 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw