L.A. green power low on energy

first_img The DWP launched its program in 1999 with the goal of raising money to buy renewable energy and build clean generating units while also raising public awareness of the slogan “Green power for a green L.A.” The program is open to both residential and commercial customers, and the extra charges are based on electricity usage. Typical residential costs range from $3 to $6 per month. The program was touted in a multimillion dollar marketing campaign that became embroiled in the “pay-to-play” scandal that dogged the administration of former Mayor James Hahn. Related public-relations contracts were terminated in 2004 after critical audits by Controller Laura Chick and investigations into overbilling and other alleged wrongdoing. The Green Power Program did not bounce back from the woes, but rather kept a low profile in 2005, officials said. “We’ve gone to very cost-effective means trying to shift away from some of the previous ways the program was promoted,” said Gary Gero, the DWP’s director of energy efficiency and renewable solutions. The main venue for advertising is now an insert included in the bill of each of the DWP’s approximately 1.9 million residential customers, Gero said. Utility representatives also talk to ratepayers and distribute material at community events, he said. The frugality is partly in response to the past scandal, but also reflects a wider uncertainty at the utility. “Unfortunately, it’s been a little bit of waiting for the larger picture of the (renewable energy portfolio) to come into focus while we let the Green Power Program move along behind that,” Gero said. Renewable power sources now make up about 5 percent of the DWP’s portfolio. While state officials have called for utilities to have 20 percent of their power renewable by 2017, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s new DWP commissioners have set a more ambitious goal of 20 percent by 2010. The board has been pushing department managers to develop geothermal, solar, wind and hydroelectric projects, as well as to convert waste to energy. The commissioners expressed dismay last week when they got the impression that DWP managers failed to show any sense of urgency in a quarterly update on green-power progress. Among other things, the managers said a significant wind-power project would be delayed an additional year because they lost out in stiff competition to secure the turbines quickly from a vendor. Speaking to utility managers, Commissioner Nick Patsaouras called the lack of progress “a total disappointment.” Colleague David Nahai said it is unclear how the DWP will reach a goal of 20 percent by 2010. DWP General Manager Ron Deaton said building the transmission infrastructure is difficult and time-consuming. “I do not believe there is a utility in this state working harder, investing more money and more effort, trying to get the transmission lines to the areas where there is green power,” he told the commission. White, from the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, joined city officials last November for the public introduction of a $300 million geothermal energy proposal involving both new power sources and transmission lines. Now, though, White said he fears that project could become “just another boondoggle” if the lines end up carrying power from dirty sources like coal. “They’re going through the motions, but they’re not getting it done,” he said about the Green Power Program. The program was an early effort to get started on adding renewables, White noted. He said he thought it was overpublicized but important. “The fact there was a number of citizens ready to participate tells you there is a hunger in the city for people wanting to do their part,” he said. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, said that she is loathe to criticize the program’s pace because renewables are a new and complex field, but would like to see more urgency. Perry said she will introduce new incentives to complement the Green Power Program, including tax credits for businesses that invest in green products. “To do a reassessment of what’s working and what may not be working may not be a bad thing,” she said. “It’s a good thing because it gives us an opportunity to really assess the marketplace and the need and where the gaps are.” Dan Laidman, (213) 978-0390 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 “They don’t let the people do their part, and the department’s not doing its part,” said John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. “Nothing is happening.” Tensions surrounding the clean-power efforts boiled over last week when DWP commissioners lashed out at department managers for moving too slowly toward renewable energy. While Commission President Mary Nichols joined her colleagues in expressing frustration, she said in an interview that, although reaching clean-energy goals will take time, the crucial first steps are being taken. “There are a lot of things to work on, and going to our customers and asking them to voluntarily participate in helping to move that process forward faster than we could otherwise is certainly an appropriate thing to do,” she said. “But we want to make sure, for us to ask people to voluntarily pay extra, that they’re getting something for their money. And until we know what the basic minimum is going to be and how we’re going to get there, we don’t want to unfairly penalize our customers who want to do the right thing.” As the new leadership of the Department of Water and Power makes clean energy a top priority, one of the utility’s earliest and most prominent green-power programs is languishing in limbo. Participation in the DWP’s Green Power Program, in which customers voluntarily pay extra to fund environmentally sound energy, plummeted for the third consecutive year in 2005, records show. Participants totaled 24,320, down from a peak of 31,543 in 2002. Revenue from the program, meanwhile, sank to $1.8 million from a peak of $2.8 million. Some environmentalists say the declining Green Power Program symbolizes a lack of commitment to move toward clean energy. last_img read more