Q: One of the issues the council has voiced an interest in recently is renewable energy such as solar and wind power. The DWP planned to invest in more coal-fired electricity in Utah, but when the press started writing about it, the former mayor put the kibosh on that. Is one of the functions of the board to ensure that the DWP invests in renewable energy?
A: We have to move in the direction of more renewables. The only question is how fast, and at what cost.
I think the major failure of the past decade or so has been the failure to plan. Not that it's been an easy environment for anyone in the utility industry to plan, with all the deregulation, the changes in regulatory policies, in this state. But the department at this point doesn't have a coherent plan for how it is going to serve the growth that we expect in electricity usage.
If we were to simply divest ... of our coal tomorrow and try to replace it with an all-green portfolio -- I'm not sure that's even possible. If you were to plan on doing it over a period of a few years, it would still be extremely expensive.
So what we have to do is put ourselves on some sort of a regimen, move in the right direction as aggressively as we can, and make it clear to the public what we are doing and why.
Having a more diverse energy portfolio is not just something we do to be better citizens of the planet. It would also improve our security.
Q: With roughly half of the city's power coming from coal, is it time for the DWP to consider its contributions to global warming?
A: My belief is that rather than DWP going it alone on the issue of carbon dioxide, what we need to do is to be part of a citywide effort, to look at the city's profile. A number of cities have now started discussing how to make themselves environmentally sustainable.
It would be a tremendous contribution to the national and international debate -- and it would be something that would once again reposition Los Angeles as a world leader on the environment -- if we could come up with a plan that would turn our city into a zero-carbon [dioxide] city within a period of time.
Q: Does DWP have a responsibility to other Western states to reduce its environmental footprint?
A: Absolutely. One of the things I helped engineer during my earlier tenure on the DWP board was a resolution to put a [pollution] scrubber on the Navajo power plant [in Arizona], which at that point was helping to create a black cloud over a whole portion of the Western sky.
It took a lot of arm wrestling, but we convinced our partners [at the power plant] that this was something we needed to do. I do think we have a responsibility, wherever we are active.
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Los Angeles Department of Water and Power:
* History: Established in 1902 for water, began providing electricity service in 1916
* Customers: More than 3.8 million residents and businesses
* Area served: 464 square miles
* Workforce: 8,450 employees
* Total power-generating capacity: 7,050 megawatts
* Electricity sources: 51% coal, 26% natural gas, 12% nuclear, 8% hydroelectric, 3% renewable energy
* Water sales: Customers purchased 201 billion gallons during the 2003-04 fiscal year
* Water sources: 53% from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; 33% from the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which carries water 223 miles to the city from the Owens Valley; 14% from local groundwater
* Governing board: a five-member panel appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council for five-year terms
Source: Department of Water and Power website