100% Renewables by 2045: Ratepayers Have a Right to Know How Much It Will Cost and Who’s Paying for It!

LA WATCHDOG--It has been almost eight months since Mayor Eric Garcetti unilaterally announced that the Department of Water and Power would phase out the three gas-fired coastal generating stations (Haynes, Harbor, and Scattergood).  

It has also been five months since the Garcetti released LA’s Green New Deal which sets “ambitious targets on renewable energy, building electrification, high levels of light duty vehicles, and electrification of buses.” 

Unfortunately, we do not know what the impact is on our rates of the plan to phase out the coastal generating stations, to implement LA’s New Green Deal, and to achieve 100% Renewables by 2045, the time frame established by Sacramento.    

Some of the proponents of a carbon free DWP have said that renewable power is cheaper than power generated by fossil fuels.  While that may be true at the source of power, lower rates are not in the cards when all costs are factored into the equation, including the Department’s projection to spend almost $70 billion in capital expenditures over the next 25 years, supported by $20 billion in debt and $50 billion in rate increases.  

When was the last time you heard that our friends at DWP and City Hall offering us a deal?    

There are others such as Food & Water Watch who believe that DWP can be powered by 100% Renewables by 2030.  Based on a FW&W sponsored report by Massachusetts based Synapse Energy Economics, a small Massachusetts based firm, FW&W believes that “Los Angeles’ transition to 100% renewable energy is not only feasible, but it that will be cheaper for DWP ratepayers.” 

However, this 2030 plan is pipe dream because the made-as-requested report honchoed by an associate of the Synapse (who has master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy) neglected to consider many technical issues that are key to the reliability of the power system.  These include transmission capacity constraints, distribution system upgrades, the integration of the grid with in-basin renewable power, the sources and concentration of renewable power, energy storage requirements and risks, and the need to meet federal reliability standards.  

The report did not even consider the impact on Ratepayers of the cost of roof top solar paid for by the homeowner.  

Fortunately, the Department has retained the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Colorado based world class operation “dedicated to the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies,” to work with the Department to develop a plan to achieve a carbon free DWP by 2045.  And based on previous comments, 100% Renewables by 2045 will not be an easy task, especially given that reliability is the top priority.  

While NREL’s draft report is not due until December 2020, that is too long for Ratepayers to wait to get an idea of the impact on our rates of Garcetti’s plans that were cooked up by the mayor without any real input from DWP’s Power System.  

According to various sources, we can expect our power rates to double or triple in real terms.  

At the same time, our water rates are expected to double or triple because of the $8 billion (“toilet to tap”) plan to recycle 195,000 acre feet of wastewater at Sanitation’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant in Playa del Rey.  

Now is the time for the Department to develop a preliminary plan for the 100% Renewables by 2045 that outlines the impact on Ratepayers of this ambitious undertaking.  At the same time, it would also be appropriate to tell us about the impact on our water rates of the Hyperion plan. 

Transparency is a must if Garcetti, the Board of Commissioners, and DWP want to earn our trust, confidence, and respect. 

  (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.)