Pasadena Reconsiders Its Energy Future

Changes in energy costs, needs and sources will redefine the City’s power landscape in the next decade

Published : Thursday, December 27, 2018 | 5:49 AM

The power and energy landscape in Pasadena, in California, and indeed in the country, is changing at a very rapid rate. Among the new realities: The paradoxical likelihood that sometime within the next decade, Pasadena may very well be purchasing power from residential customers who’ve stored surplus energy through their own rooftop solar units.

This and other significant developments in energy use were presented to the City Council earlier this month in a presentation about the Pasadena Water and Power 2018 Power Integrated Resource Plan.

Other news: the use of fossil fuels by the City will likely become extinct, since by 2027, Pasadena will no longer continue using power provided by a fossil fuel plant and will make “no new long-term fossil fuel commitments” after that date.

Pasadena will make far more use of solar and wind power in the next decade.

The City is also planning to install 122 electric car charging stations over the next few years.

According to a report presented by PWP Power Resources Planning Manager Mandip Samra, and approved by the City Council, the new 20-year energy plan will transform the PWP into a municipal utility that will eventually oversee the transfer of power in both directions — both sending power to consumers and receiving it from consumers also.

According to PWP General Manager Gurcharan Bawa, energy sales continue to decrease, while solar use is increasing.

“We need to emphasize energy efficiency,” he said.

Reflected Councilmember Margaret McAustin, “Climate change is occurring even faster than we originally thought, and global emissions will reach a new high in 2020. This IRP (Integrated Resource Plan) keeps Pasadena at the forefront of climate change and sustainability efforts as they pertain to cities.”

Added McAustin, “The new IRP will help the PWP transform itself into a 21st Century utility, and this new IRP is really one step in that new direction.”

The new Plan also reflects the efforts of 2015’s SB 350, which established California’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels.

According to the State’s Clean Energy website, (www.energy.ca.gov/sb350/), SB 350 sets “ambitious 2030 targets for energy efficiency and renewable electricity,” among other actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the energy and transportation sectors. SB 350 will greatly enhance the state’s ability to meet its long-term climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Pasadena’s Integrated Resource Plan, which is due to the state energy commission in January of 2019, reflects those goals, said the report.

According to Samra, the plan would add an average 2.7 % increase to monthly utility bills, as both she and Gawa noted that, overall, energy costs are decreasing, as solar and wind power become more affordable, but the costs of transmitting energy remain the same.

Bill increases will range from 2.68% ($2.52) for various residential accounts , up to $3.44% for larger commercial buildings

Pasadena Water and Power officials also said that during community outreach session, residents who responded to surveys indicated “a willingness to pay an additional 5-10% in their overall bill to achieve greater sustainability and reliability” and “a majority ranked electric reliability and affordable electric rates as top priorities, with minimizing adverse environmental impacts very close behind.”

Councilmember Steve Madison questioned PWP General Manager Gurcharan Bawa as to whether the new Integrated Resource Plan was mandated by the new law, but Gawa responded that the current Plan has been in development since 2009, long before the advent of the new state law. There were two major revisions to the Plan in 2012, and in 2015, Gawa added.

In addition, according to the staff report, Integrated Resource Plans are “evolving documents,” and will be updated every three to five years.

“Energy resources not considered or picked up today might be picked up in future IRPs,” the report said, adding, “We need to find a balance between reliability, cost, and environment.”

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