Customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power could see electricity bills go up an average of 3% to 5% over each of the next 20 years if the agency moves ahead with a new strategy for making itself greener, utility officials said.
Even with those rate hikes, however, an array of environmental groups criticized that strategy Monday, saying it backs away from some of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s most ambitious renewable energy goals.
The rate-hike projections were announced as the DWP unveiled a draft plan that lays out the cost of the utility’s proposed fuel mix over the next 20 years.
Mike Webster, the DWP’s assistant director of power system development and planning, predicted the average rate hikes would be even larger over the next five years, as the city complies with new state carbon emission limits and regulations requiring the adoption of renewable power, such as solar and wind energy. Those annual increases would range from 5% to 8%, but more likely be “closer to 8%,” he said.
“But these are investments, and we do expect something in return,” Webster told an audience of residents, business owners and activists. “In return, we get lower greenhouse gas emissions.”
Interested parties have until Friday to comment on the proposal at http://www.lapowerplan.org.
Some critics have already begun speaking out against new increases.
“At the end of the day, the consumer, the ratepayer, wants cheap, reliable energy and that’s the No. 1 priority,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., a San Fernando Valley business group.
The Sierra Club and roughly a dozen other organizations had a different set of concerns. They sent DWP Interim General Manager Austin Beutner a letter warning that the plan backs away from Villaraigosa’s promise – made in his 2009 inaugural address – to get 40% of the utility’s energy from renewable sources.
Those groups also complained that the plan abandons the mayor’s pledge to end the DWP’s reliance on coal by 2020. “Overall, the recommended course of action in the final draft … backtracks significantly from both city leaders’ and the Los Angeles public’s stated environmental priorities,” the letter said.
DWP officials said they remain serious about their bid to eliminate coal and have already opened talks with stakeholders in the Intermountain Power Project in Utah, the utility’s biggest source of coal. But they also said the DWP has not been able to guarantee that it could reach that target while maintaining a reliable source of power.
“I’m not going to support a document that contains a written statement that we can’t execute on with certainty,” said Lorraine Paskett, DWP senior assistant general manager.
As a result, the draft proposal currently allows the DWP to continue obtaining coal power from the Utah plant until 2027.
Utility officials said the plan does call for the DWP to reach another major milestone: eliminating the use of coal from the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona by 2014 – five years ahead of schedule. Environmental groups praised that effort, saying it showed the DWP was making progress on the elimination of coal at the utility.
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