West Hollywood Flips the Switch on 100% Renewable Energy
Last September, after the federal government withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, California established its own clean energy vision. California’s Senate Bill 100 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by serving 60% of retail electric sales from renewable energy sources by the year 2030, moving to 100% renewable energy sources by 2045.
In response, the Sierra Club began turning this vision into reality, using its Clean Break Team, Climate Action Team and Environment Justice Committee. The Clean Break Team (cleanbreak.info), led by David Haake, advocates for a just transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. The Climate Action Team, led by Steve Wicke, has a dedicated Twitter page (@climateaction0) that addresses solutions to fight climate change. The vision of the Environmental Justice Committee starts at the local level advocating clean air and healthy communities with reliable, equitable economies.
Local governments are envisioning and acting on clean air initiatives, too. On February 1st, the City of West Hollywood rolled out a 100% clean energy option for its electric customers. They couldn’t have done this alone: this was accomplished in partnership with Southern California’s Clean Power Alliance.
The Clean Power Alliance (CPA) is a government-affiliated agency that offers electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind power. The State of California approved the establishment of these agencies, known as Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs), in 2002. Nearly 17 years later, California now has 19 CCAs, including the Clean Power Alliance.
Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood Council member and now the Legislative and Regulatory Chairperson for CPA, explains, “The Clean Power Alliance is all about returning decision-making to the communities. As the customer base grows, we will try to return energy savings to the people.” Ted Bardacke, CPA’s Executive Director, describes the CPA as a “partnership”: “The CPA Board of Directors is made up of city officials, and policy is guided by that board.”
CPA is the default energy provider for residents of 29 cities, as well as unincorporated Los Angeles and Ventura counties. CPA started small, with 30,000 customers last year, added 950,000 residential customers in February, and will expand service to 100,000 business customers in May.
Horvath was a pivotal advocate in making the switch to CPA. According to Horvath, “West Hollywood’s decision for 100% renewable energy was not unanimous, but it was well supported.” She continued, “West Hollywood always looks to progressive policies to protect our environment. We feel strongly that moving to clean energy is important for our survival.”
In describing the process used to go to 100% renewable energy, Horvath said, “I’ve been supportive of CCAs and brought this idea to my colleagues on the Council. I’m grateful for the support and advice of Sheila Kuehl, a member of the LA County Board of Supervisors and Vice-Chair of CPA,” continued Horvath. “Her leadership in making sure Clean Power Alliance had the resources and infrastructure to get started was critical to our success.”
West Hollywood uses a default option of 100% renewable energy, but customers may choose options that use either 50% or 36% renewable energy, which are more affordable than the 100% renewable option. The cost of the 100% renewable option is 7-9% more than the Southern California Edison (SCE) standard plan. The cost of the 50% renewable energy option is 0-1% less than the SCE standard plan, while the 36% renewable option is estimated at 1-2% less. Southern California Edison (SCE) will continue to deliver power and handle billing and customer service. This collaboration results in reliable electric service. SCE rebates and incentives will remain in effect.
According to Ted Bardacke, “We have a big challenge in introducing competition into a market served by a monopoly for many years. That is disruptive, but in a good way. We have to explain who we are and what we do. It can be confusing. But we need people to think about where their energy comes from if we are going to make progress.” CPA’s first long-term purchase of renewable energy was from a new set of wind turbines being built locally, in Southern California.
CPA’s vision reach extends beyond electric power generation. “For now, CPA is purchasing energy from clean energy sources and delivering it via traditional distribution channels, such as Southern California Edison (SCE). Eventually, the CPA will build renewable energy and storage facilities and address air quality through buildings and how people move around,” says Bardacke. CPA’s goal is to improve the quality of life in California by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.
Local clean air initiatives are only the beginning of a complex set of solutions. Bardacke likes to think of it like a puzzle: “Clean air will require cooperation between many people, government agencies, and companies. The State, Metro buses, and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach also will need to make decisions to contribute to air quality.” CPA hopes that they will be able to help these agencies work together to find comprehensive solutions.
Another crucial piece of this puzzle is the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), a private, non-profit organization. LACI partners with cities around the world and with entrepreneurs to accelerate climate solutions. In the past six years, LACI has helped 73 companies raise $184M in funding, $220M in revenue and create 1,700 jobs. LACI works with start-up companies to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies and form partnerships in transportation, shared electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging stations, energy and sustainable cities to reach a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2028. When visitors arrive for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, LACI wants people and goods to move through the region emissions-free.
Matt Petersen, LACI President and CEO, states, “Transportation is the largest source of California’s greenhouse gases and the region’s air pollution. Through collaborations with local, regional and state stakeholders, we can grow our green economy by tapping into existing and emerging technologies, working with dynamic startups, and identifying the need for new policies. Together we will help combat climate change and protect the lungs of our children and seniors, especially in disadvantaged communities.”
LACI collaboration is a critical next step in building an inclusive green economy through innovation. Sheila Kuehl, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Vice-Chair of LACI notes, “Working together … we will demonstrate to the world that the Los Angeles region is leading the way to an equitable zero emission transportation future.”