RePower LA’s proposal “appears to be one of those rare public policy ideas that generates not only broad, but enthusiastic support from the electorate. Voters appreciate that it not only creates needed jobs, opportunities with union benefits, but it does so while cleaning our air, reducing electricity bills for 10,000 homes and businesses a year, and lowering electricity generating costs for generations to come.”
Survey of L.A. City Voters, March 2012.
Momentum is building towards a real energy efficiency plan for the City of Los Angeles. For almost two years, RePower LA has been advocating for an energy efficiency program that meets the needs of Los Angeles – reducing pollution, lowering energy bills, supporting small businesses, reaching out to low-income residents and expanding job training programs that lead to the career-path jobs we need most in this economy.
Last month, the Board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power voted for a budget that would more than double spending on energy efficiency programs to $128 million a year and develop programs that help a broad array of customers, from low-income residents to small businesses to industrial and commercial customers. Now that plan has arrived at City Hall, along with a new poll showing massive public support for RePower LA’s program.
Reducing smog and air pollution, “creating career-path job opportunities and helping people save money on electric bills each were deemed a high priority for the city by at least 80 percent of voters – ranking above even traffic congestion in importance.
The poll, conducted for the RePower LA Coalition by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, shows that the support is unusually broad. “Support is strong across all the usual voter divides, including nearly three of four Republicans, 79 percent of white voters, 80 percent of those with a history of voting in municipal elections and 85 percent of homeowners,” according to the poll summary.
Voters are also concerned with equity as well as the economic and environmental potential of the plan. Voters think that energy efficiency programs at LADWP for low-income customers and small businesses should be the highest priority. Two-thirds said that helping people struggling the most in this economy was “very important” to them in deciding how they felt about the plan. Voters were even more supportive when told that the plan would create not only jobs, but good jobs, connecting trainees to careers and membership in IBEW Local 18.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also expressed strong support for the plan. “Energy efficiency programs proposed by RePower LA and supported byLos Angelesvoters would reach our dual goals of increasing energy efficiency and creating careers for those who need them the most,” said the Mayor.
The LADWP energy efficiency plan went before the City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee at a hearing on June 20. There, LADWP’s new Director of Energy Efficiency, David Jacot, briefed the Committee on the Department’s plan and goals. As at previous town halls and hearings, a large, diverse contingent of the RePower LA coalition showed up, including environmentalists, unemployed workers, landlords and tenant advocates.
RePower LA supporters shared the poll and applauded the proposal to expand energy efficiency, but urged the councilmembers and Department to aim high. In May, the LADWP Board raised their 2020 goal for energy reductions through efficiency to 10 percent, with a “soft goal” of 15 percent – one that the coalition is working to make concrete.
The RePower LA coalition also highlighted certain areas where it is important that efficiency programs are done right. South L.A.landlord Diop Bankol and Joe Donlin of SAJE, a group that advocates on behalf of low-income renters, both spoke about the difference that energy efficiency programs could make in lowering utility bills. “Low-income renters, especially, have an opportunity to benefit from energy efficiency plans,” noted Donlin. He explained that there are challenges in these areas, though. For example, some nefarious landlords in the past have used such upgrades as excuses to raise rents or evict tenants, leading to mistrust of these programs.
Councilmembers heard these comments and asked the LADWP representatives about their plans for low-income apartments. Jacot responded by describing some of the challenges, which would be addressed initially by targeting outreach to neighborhoods and working with community groups and associations.
“LADWP has more than a quarter of a million low-income customers,” said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, a senior organizer at LAANE. “It is critical that these residents and the businesses that serve them have a voice in shaping the energy efficiency programs at LADWP.”