Home > Cande = Conjecture & Exaggeration, CO2-Free Energy (Example: Solar Electricity), Fande = Fact & Evidence, Original Thought, self-sacrificing, The Economy > The light and the dark of LADWP; the utility eliminates solar electricity and favors coal

The light and the dark of LADWP; the utility eliminates solar electricity and favors coal

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its 2010 Power Content Label this week, and dirty, dirty coal still makes up the majority of the city’s energy mix, while clean, green, solar electricity did not make the list at all. In 2009, Mayor Villaraigosa announced that the City of Los Angeles would eliminate coal-fired electricity by the year 2020. So if the plan is to eliminate the black, sooty stuff, why are Angelenos now using more of it than they were just a couple of years ago? 

Dominating the latest LADWP energy chart, coal comprised 39 percent of the total energy provided. For the city-owned utility, this represents a slight reduction in coal usage, down from 41 percent in 2009. However, if one looks at the Power Content Label from 2007, when coal produced 32 percent of the utility’s electricity, it is plain to see that coal is making a comeback instead of a graceful exit. In comparison, “Energy from the Sun” made up less than 1 percent of LADWP’s energy mix in 2007, less than 1 percent in 2009, and zero percent in 2010. 

Why are we failing to capitalize on the overabundance of sunshine in the City of Angels? We rank as one of the sunniest cities in the country, according to a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As if we didn’t already know that! Also, the city proper has enough usable roof space to generate solar electricity for over 500,000 homes, according to a July 2010 report from the Los Angeles Business Council. 

Solar electricity does not work well on shaded roofs, but that shouldn’t stop us. We can  use ground-mounted arrays and utility-scale solar power plants where there is plenty of unobstructed sunshine. Because we are so fortunate to live in such a sunny part of the world, we should use this gift of Sun Power to our advantage instead of completely ignoring it. We can make electricity from the Sun every day. Photovoltaics = energy from light. Of course, we can make more energy during the spring/summer when there are more hours of sunlight than in the autumn/winter when the daylight hours are shorter. For electricity at night, we need battery-stored energy, or wind power, or other sources. Remember, in California the utility meter swings both ways. Solar homes are hybrid homes that can feed energy into the grid and take energy from it. 

What about nuclear? Man-made nuclear energy creates a radioactive byproduct that can contaminate food and water supplies, like it did in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami this past summer. Unfortunately, LADWP increased its nuclear energy use from 3 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2010. We also live in an area that experiences earthquakes, and undoubtedly you have seen the “Tsunami Evacuation Route” signs near our beaches. Cancer-causing nuclear waste is a real threat, especially during catastrophic natural disasters. 

Natural gas? Yes, this is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, and we should use natural gas as part of our power portfolio. Yet LADWP is moving in the wrong direction: natural gas dropped from 31 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2010. For perspective, all of the other major utility companies in California – PG&E, SoCal Edison, SDG&E – use approximately 50 percent (or more) natural gas and 10 percent (or less) coal-fired energy. Why is LADWP using approximately half the percentage of natural gas and roughly 4X the percentage of coal as other California utility companies? 

“Last year we sent about $450 million out of state to pay for coal-fired power plants. That’s money that should be invested locally,” said Evan Gillespie, of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Certainly in Los Angeles, where you have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and you have an insane amount of money leaving the state, in terms of customer bills every year, we think it makes sense to redirect those investments back into Los Angeles. And that means putting [solar] panels up on buildings near where people need work.” 

Other cities around the country are moving away from coal and toward more solar energy use. In San Antonio, Texas, CPS Energy plans to retire two coal-burning power plants by 2018, according the San Antonio Express-News. The Lone Star State utility can displace almost 50 percent of that coal energy with a 400 megawatt solar-electric station that is in the works, the local newspaper reported. 

If San Antonio can switch from coal to solar, then L.A. can too. Not to mention, the state of California is already the #1 producer of solar electricity within the United States. The Entertainment Capital of the World should be a part of our state’s success story. If we use the CO2-free power of the Sun to energize our homes, offices and our plug-in electric cars, we will have drastically reduced the amount of global warming emissions and toxic pollution in our air. Our city’s slogan should be “less coal, more solar.”  

Look up, my friends. We could have sunshine as one of our major sources of energy and new jobs for installers as a result, as well as picturesque vistas clear of smog. We have identified the problem: coal, the dirtiest form of energy known to humanity. Now let’s activate the solution of using more natural gas and more power from that nuclear reactor in the sky. A solar-electric system on every available roof and a plug-in electric car in every garage is a good place to start.  


LADWP 2010 Power Content Label


Energy Resources


(Actual Mix)

LADWP Green Power (Actual Mix)

2010 CA Power Mix**

(for comparison)

Eligible Renewable*** 20% 100% 14%
-Biomass & waste 4% 59% 2%
-Geothermal 1% 0% 5%
-Small hydroelectric 7% 41% 2%
Solar 0% 0% 0%
-Wind 8% 0% 5%
Coal 39% 0% 7%
Large Hydroelectric 3% 0% 11%
Natural Gas 22% 0% 42%
Nuclear 11% 0% 14%
Unspecified sources of power* 0% 0% 0%
Other 5% 0% 12%
TOTAL 100% 100% 100%
* “Unspecified sources of power” means electricity from transactions that are not traceable to specific generation sources.** Percentages are estimated annually by the California Energy Commission based on the electricity sold toCaliforniaconsumers during the previous year.*** This is in accordance with Los Angeles City Council’s action on 10-5-04 for File No. 03-2688 (RPS).
For specific information about this electricity product, contact LADWP at 1-800-DIAL DWP (1-800-342-5397). For general information about the Power Content Label, contact the California Energy Commission at 1-800-555-7794 or www.energy.ca.gov/consumer.
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