LADWP’s Board Presses Renewables

By Published On: November 11, 2005

The new Los Angeles Department of Water & Power board is miffed with the slow pace of the department?s renewable power program and asked the staff to develop a firm plan to meet its adopted goals November 8. “At the next board meeting, there will be a plan of action,” said Nikolas Patsaouras, a member of the board appointed earlier this year by new Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. ?Unless we get contracts in place next year, we have no chance? of increasing alternative power supplies. The department adopted a renewables portfolio standard last year (Circuit, Aug. 27, 2004). Under its program, the department is to meet a 20 percent renewable power goal by 2017 and an interim target of 13 percent by 2010. At the same time, it dropped an investment in a proposed coal power plant in Utah. Today, the department generates 5 percent of its power from renewable resources. “The way things stand, you’re not going to meet the 20 percent standard or the governor?s climate change goal,” said V. John White, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies executive director. White urged the department to examine its entire portfolio strategy and compare the cost of renewable power to that of existing natural gas plant repowers and existing coal plants. “What new renewables need to begin to do is displace some of your existing portfolio,” said Martin Schlagater, Coalition for Clean Air campaign and advocacy director. In order to promote projects for renewables from “the little guy” – which Patsaouras supported – White recommended that the department lower performance bond requirements. He also suggested it not require that the California Environmental Quality Act process be completed prior to signing final project development contracts. LADWP also may need to eliminate its requirement that all projects be built by unionized labor because many renewable energy developers are small companies that do not have organized workforces, suggested Ryan Jacobson, a Black & Veatch project manager. He serves as a consultant to the department. Unions are “part of the negotiated process,” responded Henry Martinez, LADWP assistant general manager for power. He said that skirting the requirement could result in union challenges that would further slow development of renewable power, citing two power plant projects now embroiled in labor disputes. Martinez suggested that there are a large number of constraints?from availability of transmission and “not in my backyard” opposition groups to rising renewable power costs. The intermittent nature of wind and solar power has also slowed the pace of renewable power development. He noted, for instance, that it is taking four years to complete the contract negotiation and approval process, as well as environmental review and permitting, on the 120 MW Pine Tree Wind Project. That work is expected to be completed this year and the project north of Mojave to be built by 2007. Forty renewable power developers responded in September 2004 to LADWP?s request for renewable power proposals. The department said that it hoped to begin awarding contracts in February of 2005. However, as the year draws to a close, only two landfill gas project contracts have been announced. One of those would merely convert a short-term purchase arrangement between the operator and LADWP into a long-term agreement (Circuit, Aug. 26, 2005). In a separate interview with Circuit, Mary Nichols, new president of the LADWP Board of Commissioners, suggested that the department may have to abandon its current request for proposals from renewable project developers and issue a new request.

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