LA’s wounded-but-still-standing mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, perhaps in an attempt to pump some air into what could be a limp second term, has vowed in his inaugural address that LA “will be a coal-free city in 2020.”
According to a press release on the Mayor’s website, the city aims to replace the 40 percent of electricity currently coming from coal-fired plants with renewable energy or energy from cleaner sources, like natural gas.
Lacking from the speech or accompanying press release, is how.
“The Future, Mr. Gittes! The Future!”
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power provides about 7000 megawatts of power for the city, and coal makes up 40 percent of that, or 2800 MW. For some perspective, the largest solar plant in the country, the as-yet-unfinished Ivanpah Solar power plant in the Mojave Desert, will provide a mere 400 MW — and LA shouldn’t count on getting all of that.
Of course Angelenos can buy their renewable power from elsewhere — which is what they do now with their coal power, importing it from Utah and Arizona. But 2800 MW (and climbing) is a lot of juice, and given the sometimes glacial speed at which renewable energy projects go online, ten years could go by like that.
Still, give renewable energy’s strong rate of growth nationwide it is conceivable that LA will meet its target, especially if consumers are willing to pay more for their electricity, an issue the Mayor’s office is already addressing. Deputy Mayor David Freeman told Reuters, “there is no way you can bring in renewable energy and not have some rate impact when you replace coal. But the value to society even aside from global warming is going to be positive.”