The Future is Bright in Los Angeles: City takes step towards 100% clean energy

Well, here’s something to celebrate!

On September 16, Los Angeles took the latest step towards 100 percent clean energy when the City Council unanimously approved a motion requiring the utility to develop a plan for 100 percent clean energy. The motion calls on the Department of Water and Power (DWP), the largest public utility in the nation, to collaborate with research institutions and other stakeholders to study the barriers to 100 percent clean energy, with the goal of presenting a plan for phasing out fossil fuels. The motion also requests an investigation of the economic transition - how to ensure the transition to clean energy creates high quality jobs, and that no community is left behind in the transition.

Props to Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin for collaborating to move this ahead. Their leadership is needed right now. August set the 16th consecutive monthly record for warmest average global temperature. The New York Times reported this month that coastal communities are already dealing with coastal flooding driven by global warming. California is in the midst of a record drought. And dirty air days are on the rise in Southern California. In short: we need bold leadership, and Los Angeles and the planet are lucky to have leaders like Bonin and Krekorian stepping up.

But back to Friday, which was a great day. More than 100 people representing a dozen or more organizations spoke in support. Testimony ranged from students to seniors, from labor to business to environmentalists, workforce development organizations, and communities from Watts to the West Valley. Students in attendance wore sunglasses, chanting “the future is bright!” It was a reminder to me that the clean energy future we’re building is so much more motivating and inspiring than the dystopian future we’re fighting to avoid.

I was particularly struck by the testimony of Stephanie Aguillar, an 18-year-old student here in LA:

“This study makes me proud to be an Angeleno because it shows that my city is getting serious about tackling climate change and air pollution. I can't wait for my city to be run on entirely clean energy for the sake of our health and the planet, and because I want more green tech career opportunities that people in my generation will excel in."


It’d be impossible to celebrate this progress without acknowledging that it hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Advocates have spent years organizing for change in LA. Whether it be reimagining LA’s energy efficiency programs as a tool to increase equity, to fighting to keep Aliso Canyon closed, building the largest urban rooftop solar program in the country, or winning the commitment to eliminate dirty coal, a broad set of organizations have helped build the broad, diverse constituency necessary to enable the conditions where the City Council would unanimously vote to develop a plan for 100% clean energy. See the press release for a robust but admittedly incomplete list of groups playing a role in transforming the City’s energy system to make it clean and equitable.

Of course, while a great start, a plan is just a plan. There are no dates for the transition (yet) and the rubber will soon hit the road as the utility has some important decisions in the near future. Most critically, DWP is weighing a decision to build more than two gigawatts of new gas power plants- roughly half in Los Angeles and half as part of its plan to phase out coal. How DWP lands on those decisions, and how they respond to public comment, will go a long way to determining the level of leadership LA will provide, as well as the pace of the transition to 100% clean energy.

Those decisions are critically important, and it is part of the reason why Friday’s action and the Council’s leadership is so necessary. The City Council has made clear that there’s only one destination for our energy future: 100 percent clean energy. We’re looking forward to getting to work with Stephanie and all the others in attendance on Friday to build that future together. 

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