Los Angeles approves 100% clean energy by 2035, moving original target up by a decade

LADWP, the nation's largest public utility, is transitioning to renewable energy in order to set an example for other utilities.

Los Angeles approves 100% clean energy by 2035, moving original target up by a decade

  • The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to transition to clean energy by 2035. This is in line with President Biden’s national goals, and it happens ten years earlier than the city originally planned.
  • The LA100 plan would see the city replace its natural gas electricity generation with wind, solar and battery storage. This would help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plan was approved by the city council in a 12-0 vote.
  • The city council approved an equitable hiring plan that will require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to increase hiring from disadvantaged neighborhoods. The goal is to create 9,500 jobs as part of the city's transition to clean energy.

LADWP, the nation's largest public utility, is transitioning to renewable energy in order to set an example for other utilities. This comes as California deals with the Dixie and Caldor fires and just weeks after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning about climate change.

The LA100 initiative is not a utopian plan, but rather a workable solution to the world's current problems, remarked City Councilman O'Farrell at the bill's introduction.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a report in March that showed Los Angeles could achieve clean energy without blackouts or disruptions to the economy. The report showed that any economic disruption would be "small in relationship to the 3.9 million jobs and $200 billion in annual output in the LA economy as a whole," with the potential to create thousands of new jobs in the clean energy industry.

Los Angeles can meet its goal of using only clean energy, but it will require a lot of wind, solar, and battery resources. The NREL study showed that the city could meet this goal by shutting down its local gas power plants. This would require an average deployment of between 470-730 MW of wind, solar and batteries each year between 2021 and 2045.

The study simulated what would happen until 2045. The study found that the city will continue to add renewables even after 2035. The study showed that rooftop solar on single-family and multi-unit dwellings could play a big role in reducing electricity rates and producing renewable energy.

At a presentation to the city council Wednesday, LADWP general manager and chief engineer Martin Adams said that the utility plans to provide twice the amount of electricity that it currently does by 2035. This will account for electrification of buildings and transportation. The NREL report also said that LADWP will need some reliable new generation in and around the city itself. Adams said that green hydrogen could help meet the needs of the city, with hydrogen-powered turbine plants providing long-term storage and dispatching power when needed. LADWP is planning to pilot a hydrogen system at the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah, which currently provides a fifth of the city’s power.

Southern California Gas Company, the nation's largest natural gas distribution utility, said that in the future clean fuels like hydrogen and renewable natural gas will be important to keeping the electric grid running and to eliminating emissions from hard-to-electrify sectors of the economy like transportation and industry. Sempra pledged this spring to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Adams said that although the transition in Los Angeles could cost a lot of money (the NREL report estimated costs between $57 billion and $87 billion), much of the work could be done at the same time as other repairs. Democrats in the U.S. Congress are working to pass a bill that would provide $73 billion for grid improvements, as well as a budget reconciliation bill that could help fund the expensive transmission work necessary for the move.

Jasmin Vargas, a senior organizer with Food & Water Watch who participated in advisory panels for the NREL report, said the passage of the goal is "exciting." However, she emphasized that LADWP needs to reach out to communities "that are on the front lines and the fence lines of polluting projects." LADWP last month launched a two-year equity strategy process and has a separate long-term resource plan process that includes stakeholder outreach.

According to Vargas, engaging with a variety of community leaders and voices will help ensure that the benefits of the clean energy transition are felt by all city residents, especially those who have been most affected by fossil fuel pollution. "The inequality is what we're trying to fix," she said. "That's more than just how many clean energy megawatts you put on the grid."

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