In what is likely to be a historic and important turning point toward helping the City of Los Angeles reach its clean energy targets, the Board of the Los Angeles Unified School District Tuesday voted unanimously for a resolution calling for the district to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy electricity by 2030; and all other energy usages including cooking, boilers, HVAC and transportation no later than 2040.
LAUSD schools and facilities are the largest consumers of electricity in Los Angeles. Now the District’s massive real estate portfolio of 60 million square feet of school roofs could soon become a source of revenue and power generation. LAUSD is also the second largest school district in the country, with more than 725,000 students enrolled in more than 1,100 schools, with more than 26,000 teachers. Transitioning to a 100% clean renewable energy profile, LAUSD will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually.
On Tuesday, LAUSD Board Members Scott Schmerelson, Jackie Goldberg and Dr. George McKenna III, along with the the Los Angeles chapter of the Climate Reality Project, proposed the resolution for “Clean, Renewable Energy Resulting in Healthier Students and More Sustainable, Equitable Communities (Res-018-19/20).”
The resolution calls for the formation of a task force, led by the facilities division of LAUSD, no later than January 31, 2020, to view and research all the available options and plans for the most viable, feasible, low-cost or no-cost options to make this transition to 100 clean renewable energy, explained Michael Zelniker, Climate Reality Project, Co-Chair Los Angeles Chapter, who spearheaded the effort that began last March with a conversation with City Council Member Paul Krekorian.
“It all started when we attended a city council committee to discuss creation of a city climate emergency office and two of my colleagues, Sybil Azur and Kathy Schaeffer, asked the question about transitioning LAUSD to clean, renewable energy, not even realizing the school district was not under the jurisdiction of the city,” Zelniker told the Buzz.
“Councilmember Krekorian said he wanted to help, and three weeks later he made the introduction to LAUSD Board member Mr. Scott Schmerelson,” said Zelniker.
Senior staff of board members Jackie Goldberg and Dr. George McKenna III, who were receptive to supporting the resolution, advised Zelniker to identify and research specific, actionable strategies to making the transition to renewal energy. The timing was perfect, they said, because the LADWP’s Feed in Tariff (FiT) program, has been in place for several years and is working to develop local solar generation and save transmission costs.
The FiT program will allow the District to partner with solar developers to sell solar-generated power to LADWP and to receive compensation in consideration of the District providing the solar developer with the rooftop, parking lot, or other available space for the solar developer’s installation.
“Solar has been working great for homeowners, but solar on big roofs like that of many LAUSD buildings is even better. It can be half the cost of home solar, and it can do more than just lower school power bills,” said Dan Kegel, a parent and tech engineer, who also serves as chair of the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance’s advocacy committee (and as a Buzz contributor), who was asked to speak at the meeting.
“It can provide revenue. LADWP’s feed-in tariff is generous, and lets you run a profit on daytime energy use… and their feed-in tariff plus, coming next year, should let you run a profit selling power in the evening, too. It can provide reliability for your school. Solar systems paired with batteries could keep the lights on and refrigerators and computers running when there’s a power outage… even one that lasts days or weeks,” said Kegel.
“At this point, the question isn’t whether LAUSD should start rolling out more solar — it’s when, where, and how,” concluded Kegel.
The resolution requires the task for to develop an implementation plan to meet the energy goals, in addition to reducing the District’s current level of waste production and increasing the impact of sustainability initiatives. The resolution calls for the task force to include District personnel, students, parents, labor partners, energy providers, renewable energy experts, and clean energy advocates, including but not limited to representatives from the Transportation Services Division, LADWP, Southern California Edison, and 100% Green Schools LA.
The task force will hold meetings once every four months with District teachers, parents, students, and staff until the completed implementation plan is presented to the Board for adoption no later than January 31, 2021.
“This is just the beginning,” said Zelniker. “Over the next 12 months we will review every low or no cost program, we cannot take money out of the class room to achieve this goal.”