In a major step toward ending the city's reliance on coal by 2025, the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a far-reaching plan to amend its agreement with the Intermountain Power Project in Utah to convert it to renewable energy.
The 12-0 vote instructed the City Attorney's Office to prepare the final ordinances needed to amend the city's agreement with its partners at the IPP and begin the process to transform the coal-powered plant to allow use of natural gas, wind and solar power to generate the power needed for the city.
City officials said they need to begin the work to make the conversion as state and federal laws require all utilities to begin using renewable sources of energy to get off coal, which produces more pollution even as it is cheaper to use to generate power.
"There is a conflict between cost and the environment," said Councilman Paul Krekorian. "It is part of the struggle going on throughout the world as we get off a coal-based economy. We cannot look too narrowly at the cost...because it does not take into account the health costs throughout the world."
DWP General Manger Ron Nichols said the agreement will give the city more flexibility in converting off coal and take advantage of department efforts to improve energy efficiency and use other renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.
DWP ratepayer advocate Fred Pickel said he agrees with the city's
plan to get off coal, but he cautioned against locking in any one source of energy generation at the plant.
"The existing default alternative of a combined cycle natural gas plant is expensive and far from cost-effective for its modest carbon reductions," Pickel said. "We may be able to accomplish this at lower cost and with greater carbon reduction with renewables from multiple large-scale wind and solar generator projects."
Earlier this month, Pickel estimated it could cost each DWP ratepayer up to $6 a month to replace the coal power with natural gas and other renewable sources.
But Councilman Richard Alarcon said the city needs to consider the new state and federal requirements as well as potential future costs of all sources of energy.
"No one has a crystal ball to determine what will be happening 10, 20 or 30 years from now," Alarcon said. "There are those cynics who will tell you the most horrendous cases and that people don't give a damn about their environment and say who cares about the consequences as long as the price is reasonable.
"Then, there are those who are looking to the future and say they want to give our children a better place to live. Los Angeles is going to be a driving force of the nation."
Councilman Jose Huizar called it an "historic moment" for the city.
"The cost for renewables may go up and down and so might natural gas," Huizar said. "What we need to do is work to find additional cost reductions and new revenue."
Councilman Dennis Zine asked that the City Council get annual reports on the progress of the program and any increased costs that ratepayers might face.