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Poll: DWP rate increases and renewable energy

March 30, 2010 |  2:36 pm

The Times' editorial board on Monday gave its thumbs-down to the L.A. Department of Water and Power's and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposal to increase electricity rates by between 8% and 28% over the next year. The problem the editorial board had with the proposal wasn't so much that DWP customers would have to pay higher rates -- an inevitability given the increasing use of renewable energy sources and the rise in fossil fuel prices -- but the hastiness and lack of transparency with which the mayor and DWP sought to impose the rate hikes:

The most irritating thing about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's carbon surcharge proposal is not the increase in electricity rates it would impose on Los Angeles residents and businesses. Higher rates will no doubt hit ratepayers harder because of the struggling economy, but increases are coming one way or the other, and the mayor is right when he says it's better to raise rates now to invest in renewable power generation and similar clean-energy programs than to raise them a year or two later to cover the increasing costs of dirty coal and to pay the looming penalties for spewing pollutants and carbon into the atmosphere.

No, the most exasperating aspect of the mayor's plan is that, with a little more care in preparation and a lot more openness, it could have been easy to support. But it was thought through and presented so poorly that many who would back it with enthusiasm, including The Times' editorial page, have little choice but to call for its rejection. The City Council, which on Friday said no to the plan, should on Tuesday send it back to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners that hastily adopted it on March 18.

A few hours after DWP and some city officials unveiled the rate-hike proposal, several of the proponents stopped by The Times for a discussion with reporters and editorial board members. In the meeting, DWP General Manager S. David Freeman said he didn't see transparency as an urgent issue, noting that the DWP "isn't any more opaque" that the other utilities he's run and that the technical nature of its work doesn't lend itself to openness. You can listen to audio clips of that interview here

While The Times' editorial focused mostly on transparency -- though it did call for a more modest initial rate increase than the one proposed by Villaraigosa and the DWP -- much of the reader commentary on this issue has been in response to increased costs for Los Angeles ratepayers, the subject of our poll. Would you be willing to pay more for your electricity to fund a shift to renewable energy resources? Take our poll, leave a comment or do both.

-- Paul Thornton

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