Los Angeles City Council members warned the Department of Water and Power on Tuesday that it must do a much better job of reaching out to the city's neighborhood councils if it hopes to sell the public on a surcharge to pay for the city's shift to green power.
DWP officials presented a City Council panel with a briefing on plans to increase solar and wind power and other renewable energy generated by the agency from the current 2.2% to 20% by 2017.
Because green power can be more expensive than coal and natural gas, the DWP proposed that a surcharge be phased in during the next 12 years.
The surcharge would be capped, so it could not add much more than $3 per month to the average residential bill, and it could be much lower depending on the bids the city receives from green power companies.
Members of the council's Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee told DWP officials that their plan to submit the surcharge proposal to neighborhood councils in October did not allow enough time to weigh the need for rate hikes.
"I think October is way too late to start doing public outreach," said Councilwoman Janice Hahn.
She called a DWP report proposing to cap the surcharge at 7 cents per kilowatt hour misleading because the figure is in today's dollars and would rise by 2017.
"That's why I think we are going to have trouble in making the case on this one to ratepayers," Hahn said. "This is fuzzy math."
Council members Cindy Miscikowski and Tony Cardenas agreed that the DWP needs to be clearer with ratepayers about the potential costs, noting that it was a lack of candor that caused the widespread outcry over water rate increases proposed earlier this year.
The opposition of neighborhood councils was a factor in the City Council decision to lower the increase from 18% to 11%.