A new Board motion moves LA County closer to 100% renewable energy
Nearly all residents and businesses in unincorporated L.A. County receive 50% of their energy from renewable sources as part of the County’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At its Dec. 7 meeting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors doubled down on this initiative by approving a measure that changes the default energy offering in unincorporated homes to 100% renewable.
The move makes good on one of the targets set by the OurCounty Sustainability Plan, which calls for eliminating all fossil fuels in the County by 2050, supporting policies and programs to reduce air and climate pollution, and preparing communities for the damaging impacts of climate change.
Here Gary Gero, the chief sustainability officer for L.A. County, explains what the measure means for the more than 1 million residents who live in unincorporated areas and for the region at large.
How will this new motion change energy delivery in greater L.A. County? How does it work?
It won’t change how your energy is delivered. Southern California Edison still provides the delivery services and is responsible for billing, service issues, and local infrastructure maintenance. Similarly, the Clean Power Alliance will still be your local electricity provider. But what will change is the type of energy that you will get. Starting in October 2022, customers in unincorporated areas of L.A. County will be getting 100% renewable energy – wind, solar, geothermal – from CPA, compared to the 50% clean energy they receive now. And most of the renewable energy will have been produced right here in California.
Why is the County taking this action? What does it hope to gain?
By switching to 100% renewable energy, the County will zero out greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity use. This is more than a 10% reduction in climate pollution from 2015. There is probably no other single thing that the County could do feasibly to reduce so many emissions so quickly. This is a big part of how we will meet our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.
But it is not only about climate change. By getting our electricity from clean sources, we can start to phase out dirtier fossil-fuel power plants which create local air pollution. And, we also want to create good clean energy jobs locally by taking this action. So, when CPA invests in new wind and solar energy facilities, they help create an energy transition. They have already committed nearly $3 billion dollars for new clean energy projects and that has created 2,500 new jobs.
How will this proposed motion affect the average resident or business owner in unincorporated areas of the County? Will rates go up? Will it affect how I use energy in my home or business?
In October 2022, rates will go up by about 3.5% from today’s levels, which means about $5 per month for the average residential customer but less for those in smaller homes or apartments. We’ve designed the rates so that low-income customers on a subsidized rate will not have any rate increase.
Customers can actually avoid higher bills by reducing their energy use, especially during peak times of 4 to 9 p.m.Additionally, CPA offers several programs to provide customers with bill assistance. These options can be found at www.cleanpoweralliance.org/CPAbillhelp
Is this decision final for all residents and businesses or do they have choices? Is a price increase due to this action mandatory for everyone?
The customer always has the final choice. If they want to stay at the current rate level or choose CPA’s lowest cost Lean Power product, they have those options. They can also choose to return to Southern California Edison. Customers can explore all their options at www.cleanpoweralliance.org/compare.
What is Clean Power Alliance? How many people does it serve?
Clean Power Alliance is a public agency and the default electricity provider for the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and 30 cities in those two counties. It serves over 3 million residents and businesses through approximately 1 million customer accounts. Los Angeles County led the creation of CPA to provide customers with an alternative to Southern California Edison and to create a locallycontrolled electricity provider.
What are the sources of all this renewable energy? Where is the power coming from?
Almost all this energy will come from wind and solar farms in California with a little bit coming from other western states and a little coming from geothermal and small hydroelectric.
Is it really realistic to think we can switch to all renewables in a region as big as greater L.A.? What are the risks?
Yes, CPA has already proved this is possible since they currentlyprovide 100% renewable energy to nearly 1 million residentsand businesses across their service territory. They have done this without any supply shortages. CPA is also a very large investor in battery energy storage that allows renewable energy to be delivered when the sun goes down or the wind is not blowing.
Why is it so important to ensure we are using electricity from clean sources for power?
Electricity is the most critical part of our infrastructure. Without it many other systems, like telecommunications, wouldn’t be able to operate. And, as we transition our economy away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources, electricity will be even more important in our homes, businesses, and transportation systems.For example, as more electric vehicles plug into the grid, having them powered with 100% renewable energy will pair the local air improvements from EVs with reduction in global climate pollution.
With challenges we’ve seen with the power grid nationwide, isn’t this a big risk? Can we really meet all our demands without some kind of breakdown? What’s the back-up?
The power grid definitely needs to be upgraded, but for the most part the grid doesn’t care whether it is moving electricity that came from a coal plant or a solar project. So, transitioning away from dirty electricity to cleaner isn’t going to cause the grid to breakdown.
But it is true that we need to have extra power available for times when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining, or demand is greater than anticipated. That’s why Clean Power Alliance procures extra power to have as a back-up, including from renewable resources like geothermal that operate around the clock. It is also the third largest purchaser of battery energy storage in California so that when there is extra wind or solar power, it can be stored for use when power is needed.
What are the next steps? Might we see renewables come to all of L.A. County, not just incorporated areas?
Well, we know that LADWP is moving forward with its plans to have 100% clean power. So with them, us, and the other cities that have made this choice, more than half the County will be have carbon-free electricity sources. And once we’ve shown that it is possible, we expect that other cities will join CPA and that soon we will have clean power for everyone in the County.
What kind of impacts might this move have on energy delivery nationwide?
President Biden has announced a goal for 100% carbon-free energy by 2035. So just as we can demonstrate to cities throughout the County that this is possible, we will also be an example for others across the nation. We hope and expect that the clean energy revolution will spread quickly with Los Angeles and California leading the way.