Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

LADWP’s 100% Renewable Energy Study Says…

Title slide from Dr. Cochran's presentation
NREL’s Dr. Jaquelin Cochran presenting at Saturday’s DWP-NC advocacy committee meeting

NREL’s Jaquelin Cochran, who leads LADWP’s 100% Renewable Energy Study, presented its results so far at last Saturday’s monthly  LADWP-Neighborhood Council meeting.  (She made the same presentation at the January 12 LADWP board meeting and the January 21-23 LADWP outreach meetings… and she’s not done yet.  Evidently big changes need lots of outreach…and that means you, dear reader, should consider attending the next meeting, after arming yourself by reading on.)

The subject is complex, but Dr. Cochran does a good job taking listeners through the forest without getting too lost in the trees.  She started by explaining that city leaders have set bold goals to power the city with renewable energy – including electrifying buildings and vehicles – by 2045 to fight climate change and reduce health problems from smog.   She said that means equipment like stoves, hot water heaters, and cars will eventually be powered with electricity instead of gasoline or natural gas.  And it means LADWP will need to add wind, solar, batteries, and upgraded power lines, plus clean backup power for when wind and solar power aren’t available.  (The delightfully cheesy video at walks the viewer through the basics of all of this in a hypothetical city named Renew-a-ville.)  To figure out what investments will be needed to do this, the City Council asked LADWP to work with NREL on the study.

Dr. Cochran said “It’s important to note that the study is not a plan, is not a roadmap… it provides information that LADWP and the public will need as you make decisions and you create plans. … For the past few years, a team of us at NREL have been working with a stakeholder advisory group to frame the questions we address in the study,” including how well LA’s power grid will handle more air conditioners and heat waves, and what all of this might cost.

Cochran said to explore the range of possibilities, the study considers three different projections for future electricity demand:

  • “moderate” (more or less business-as-usual)
  • “stress” (in which most cars and buildings are electric by 2045… which is rather likely, given that GM intends to stop making gasoline cars by 2035)
  • “high” (same as “stress”, plus higher building and appliance efficiency, and smart timing of energy use)

And it applies those projections to four scenarios, each representing a different set of choices LADWP could make in reaching the 100% renewable goal:

  • One with the minimum needed to satisfy state law SB100
  • One with more electric transmission lines
  • One with more local rooftop solar
  • One which reaches 100% earlier, and uses hydrogen instead of biofuel

She said all of the potential scenarios add transmission to accommodate the growth in electricity demand, and add significant amounts of wind, solar, customer rooftop solar, and batteries.   And instead of running natural gas power plants every day, “in the future we will rely on wind, solar, and batteries to meet most of our everyday energy needs, and rely on combustion turbines, fueled with renewable fuels, for only limited periods.”

With that, she said detailed study results would be out next month, and turned the session over to Q&A and comments by Dr. Fred Pickle, LA’s ratepayer advocate.

During that part of the presentation, the best audience question was “How much will it all cost?”  Cochran said the total cost through 2045 is projected to be about $50 billion for the scenario that does just the minimum needed to meet state law.  The Buzz pocket calculator says that’s about $1.35/day per person… presumably less for light energy users, more for heavy energy users.  Can it be done without increasing the monthly total energy bills for the average working-class family?  Tune in next time…

Audio of the meeting, including Q&A, is online at  The more detailed January 12 board presentation slides and video are also online.

For more info, or to find out about future meetings, see and/or attend the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance panel discussion planned for February 21.

[Disclosure: this writer chairs the GWNC sustainability committe as well as the NCSA energy committee, and is an NCSA delegate to the NREL study’s stakeholder advisory group.]

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Daniel Kegel
Daniel Kegel
Dan Kegel is a software engineer and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council's Sustainability Committee. He also volunteers with Citizens' Climate Lobby Los Angeles and is an occasional contributor to the Buzz.

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