Green LA maps road to 100% renewables

Symbolic outreach: Councilmen Krekorian and Bonin (behind dais) last week celebrated the unanimous vote.

Just weeks before it hosts USGBC’s Greenbuild 2016 conference, the City of Los Angeles has set its sites on an epic Hollywood makeover. The birthplace of smog now is aiming to clean up its act and become one of the world’s cleanest cities, having given the green light on research efforts to replace fossil fuel use with clean energy resources as soon as viable.

Last week, the LA City Council unanimously approved a measure that allows the city’s Dept. of Water and Power (LADWP), to investigate methods for achieving 100% clean energy. Serving the nation’s second-largest city, LADWP is the largest municipal utility in U.S., supplying electricity and water to some four million customers. The move makes LA the largest U.S. city to date to explore a clean energy initiative of such magnitude.

“Los Angeles can lead the way and show cities around the country — and around the world — that clean energy is here and ready to power thriving economies,”  said Councilman Paul Bonin, who co-sponsored the measure. “This legislation will make sure that our transition to 100% clean energy happens as quickly, and as strategically as possible, and serves as a roadmap for other cities that want to join the clean energy future.” Otherwise, he added, “much of the gorgeous coastline of the district I represent will literally be underwater within decades if we do not take dramatic action to stop using harmful and climate-polluting fossil fuels.”

“Los Angeles can lead the way and show cities around the world that clean energy is here and ready to power thriving economies”

— Paul Bonin, LA City Council member

Among other provisions, the legislation calls for LADWP to collaborate with universities, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, environmental groups, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders to identify specific requirements to draw the city’s electricity solely from clean, safe, and renewable resources.

Proclaiming his city as “a leader in the fight against climate change,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said the legislation will add more juice to “the Sustainable City pLAn and the directives I issued to LADWP following the Aliso Canyon disaster,” referring to the the worst single natural gas leak in U.S. history, which happened last fall, some 65 miles southeast of LA.

Aliso Canyon gas leak was discovered 11 months ago by the Southern California Gas Co. and traced to the underground location of a well pipe that for weeks had spewed noxious odors. Thousands were forced to evacuate their homes.

“We’re thrilled that Los Angeles is taking the next big step towards re-powering local communities and empowering all Angelenos with a 100% clean energy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Cities across the country are already making this bold commitment, and with [this vote], LA is on its way to cutting ties with fossil fuels and powering all homes, businesses and schools with innovative clean energy solutions.”

Among other goals, the LADWP team now will seek potential sites for renewable projects, the extent to which Los Angeles will be required to contract for green energy from other locations, and the price tag attached to achieving a complete renewable energy program.

Of course, tangible progress won’t happen overnight.

LADWP anticipates its work with collaborators will require years, though its progress will be incorporated into the utility’s Integrated Resource Plan. Its first step is to update the council in three months on both the structure of the undertaking and provide an estimated timeline to complete the project. In fact, the city has been chipping away at the issue of clean energy for some time, adopting programs to eventually eliminate coal-fired power by 2025, undertaking California’s largest energy efficiency initiative in the state, and promote rooftop solar energy. Additionally, LADWP plans to launch a “community solar pilot,” promoting rooftop installations in low-income neighborhoods.

However, even those feats would be dwarfed if a future LA is able to achieve 100% clean energy.

“This is an enormous step forward that will help preserve our environment and lead us to a more sustainable future,” added Councilman Paul Krekorian, the measure’s other co-sponsor. “For the third year running, Los Angeles was ranked as the most polluted city in the country, which is unacceptable and unhealthy for our families and neighborhoods. [This] vote puts Los Angeles on a path to 100% clean energy, which will reduce greenhouse emissions, cut pollution, and lead to greater energy efficiency.”

“We’re on our way to a clean energy future,” proclaimed Mayor Garcetti.

Does a Hollywood ending await?