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Villaraigosa celebrates Los Angeles DWP milestone: 20% of power from renewable sources

January 13, 2011 | 12:34 pm

http://opinion.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c7de353ef01310fa96d0c970c-250wi Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa celebrated an environmental milestone on Thursday, confirming what had been predicted for much of last year: the Department of Water and Power managed to secure 20% of its power from renewable sources, including wind and solar power, in 2010.

Villaraigosa promised to reach that goal during the 2005 election campaign. Sustaining it may be another matter, according to a draft report issued two months ago by the DWP, the nation's largest municipally owned utility.

In that report, DWP officials warned that its renewable-energy portfolio would steadily slip backward over the next five years, to 13% in 2015, unless the utility received a major infusion of cash. In that same report, DWP officials recommended that the utility scale back the ambitious renewable-energy promise that Villaraigosa made in his 2009 inaugural -- getting 40% of the DWP's power from renewable sources by 2020.

The mayor said Thursday that he was now pushing for a 33% renewable goal by 2020. DWP officials warned last month that even that more conservative goal -- when combined with other long-term expenses at the DWP -- could result in electricity-rate hikes of 5% to 8% in each of the next five years.

Villaraigosa said he did not believe the renewable-energy portfolio would fall to 13%. But he declined to commit to any specific rate-hike proposal, saying he was trying to keep the focus Thursday on the utility’s environmental achievements.

“As long as I’m mayor, I think you’re going to see a steady march” toward more renewable energy, he said.

First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner said he was trying to find ways to reduce the size of potential rate increases and argued that Southern California Edison -- serving customers outside Los Angeles -- was pursuing hikes that were similar or even larger in size. Still, he also warned that cleaner energy would come at a cost.

“I think everybody understands there’s no free lunch,” said Beutner, who is serving as the DWP’s interim general manager.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Solar panels at DWP building. Credit: L.A. Times