100% green energy? LA100 just released a study to get there by 2035.
The City of Los Angeles released LA100 on March 24, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive science-based study to analyze pathways for the city to use 100% renewable energy by 2035.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the nation’s leading energy research lab, and the University of Southern California, to model an entirely renewable-based grid and plan a clean energy future for all of LA’s diverse communities.
The partnership conducted more than 100 million computer simulations, which showed that moving to total renewable energy is possible, albeit not easy.
“Seeing all the amazing benefits that the study lays out, just really astronomical changes in terms of air quality and air pollution, and billions of dollars of savings when it comes to the health effects,” said Ethan Senser, the Southern California director of Food and Water Watch, a non-profit focused on government accountability. “These are things that our communities really desperately need.”
Currently, 45% of L.A.’s power comes from fossil fuels. To achieve its goal, the city will switch from carbon-based energy to solar farms and rooftop panels, according to the study. These new sources are to produce between 69% and 87% of the city’s power by 2035. Incentive programs could also be put into place for people to drive electric cars and replace gas stoves with electric.
The study found that the changes would have a minimal impact on the L.A. economy. It estimates a loss of 3,600 jobs, followed by an increase of 4,700 other positions, rendering these changes almost negligible in relation to the 3.9 million jobs and the $200 billion annual output in the L.A. economy as a whole.
Pushes for a move to green energy in L.A. gained steam after the Aliso Canyon gas blowout in 2015. During the blowout, an underground gas storage facility began to leak methane, resulting in release rates that were nearly twice as much as the entire Los Angeles region, a study said.
Food & Water Watch has been serving on the LA100 advisory board for the past four years, providing communities living near fossil fuel infrastructure with tools to advocate for themselves and transition their economies to cleaner forms of energy.
Senser said the study lacks solid implementation plans, especially for marginalized communities.
“That’s really the key tool to implementation,” Sener said. “How are we making it as easy as possible and as attractive as possible for everyday Angelenos to be taking part in this transition?”
Nathaniel Hyman, USC student and founder of DivestSC, an organization advocating for USC to freeze investments into fossil fuels, said the city needs to be transparent with its plan to get people on board.
“We think there’s a major compounding effect that can come out of that,” Hyman said in relation to the University’s transparency with their fossil fuels investment and their previous lack thereof. “That’s how it gets done, the best practice is when people say that they’re doing it and why.”
The goal of DivestSC is to complement the LA100 initiative, Hyman said. Thanks to USC President Carol Folt, the school is on board with sustainability practices and has shown no unwillingness to get things done, he said.
Dr. Kelly Sanders, a USC Associate Professor in civil and environmental engineering, said that if the city converts to an electric grid powered by renewable energy, L.A. will see huge benefits in local air quality, resulting from decreased emissions from cars and other vehicles. By powering buildings with cleaner energy, she expects a drop in greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s a whole revamping of the system,” Sanders explains. “Basically, anything in our lives in the city that we can control will transition to renewable energy.”
Sanders remarked that one of the things she noticed during the beginning of state-wide lockdowns in March 2020 was the “crystal clean air” in LA.
“You could see the mountains, you could see snow on the mountains,” she added. “And you can expect a future where every day is going to resemble something like that, which I think is really exciting.