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Poll: DWP rate increases and renewable energy

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


Comments () | Archives (12)

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i didn't see any plan of what the money is cover? building solar power? funding the City "general fund"

Mark Cronan

If the DWP would pay individual homes with solar power generators for the excess power they generate (at market rates less some reasonable percentage), rather than simply giving them a DWP bill credit, they could easily encourage a large switch to solar energy by making the switch more affordable for home owners.

Regardless, the rate hike is unjustified at this time due to the economic recession. Restoring the local economy in the short term is a higher priority than a marginal long term contribution to environmentalism.


The rate hike is going to pay for the pay raises the mayor gave to the unions at the DWP prior to his election. In return, the unions worked to re-elect him.

Pretty simple really. Progressive politics 101. Extort money from one group (taxpayers) under the force of law and give it to special groups favorable to the politician's cause.

There is a cancer in our city, eating away at its core. The LA Times is part of the malignancy.

Lee Hauser

Such a total crock. Surely this will be a slush fund so many more raises can be provided. HeyCalifornia aren't we paying through the nose already? This is another tax and the worst is yet to come unless we wake up. They will nickle and dime us to death unless we kick them out. Are you ready yet?

Jake Lockley

The LADWP needs to raise rates in order to pay a fee being required by the City. The money goes into the City's general fund. This money, the mayor says, will also be used to create low income green jobs for Los Angeleans in the form of Green Doctors who go around door to door offering energy conservation tips. He's already in partnership with unions lined up for the jobs. Villaraigosa even said the city could go bankrupt without the extra cash from DWP's captive customers. That part is probably true. Meaning they kept spending money they didn't have and expect the people to pay for it. Meanwhile they practice wealth redistribution under the guise of Green.


City workers are generally underworked and over-paid with generous raises. The DWP regularly posts a profit. Currently we are cash strapped because gov't revenue is down ie taxes. Taxes are down because people aren't working and aren't spending. There have been sales tax increases and payroll tax increases coupled with unemployment. Now is not the time to hit people again and make life even harder. Wait for a two quarters of growth before gouging the people again. You can even leave the tax increases in place, people have short memories. When people have more disposable income and can take the hit, then raise the tax to pay for your renewable energy.


What about . . . I support dedicating the ENTIRE rate increase to go towards transitioning the city off coal and gas and nuclear and to REDUCE waste through residential and commercial energy efficiency- and I support doing it in basin to maximize job creation , and I support the jobs being union.

And get this-- I support requiring the full cost of dirty energy (transport, clean up, maintenance, public health costs, and interests on loans for dirty energy) be included in any comparisons with renewables. And include job comparisons.

That's not a choice in this poll. Let's not confuse clean energy with this increase. This INCREASE is primarily to cover the cost and debt associated with staying on FOSSIL FUELS, one sixth of the rate increase is dedicated to increasing renewables and green jobs and only because the community was so strongly in support.

If we had approved a dedicated fund for renewables and energy efficiency, a feed in tariff for solar, and the accountability measures that come with this proposal years ago, maybe we wouldn't be forced to raise rates now.


This has got to be one of the most badly constructed and misleading polls I have ever seen. Who wrote it, a third grader?? Please tell me the Times had nothing to do with it....if they did, then this is certainly the death knoll for good writing, good journalism, and the type of SCIENTIFIC and PRECISE polling that we had in the 60s and 70s. Sheesh...no wonder folks have no idea what the heck is going on with even newspapers like the L.A. Times dumbing down its content. This is one reason we have halfwit teabaggers running around all amped up and crashng airplanes into buildings and shooting up the Pentagon. Have we forgotten that it was president bush's bogus energy crisis of 2001 that got L.A. and California got into the current financial straights?? We have to find a way to somehow get our energy in re-newable form and from Non-criminal and corrupt non-texas sources. This is not going to be cheap. But we need the mayor and those in charge to explain the WHY...there are just too many morons out there to just throw these things out with no explanation.


I agree with glizz, somewhat. Most of the funding should indeed be dedicated to weaning us off , as much as possible, coal and other fossil fuels. However, I do believe that we should search out ways to generate power from nuclear sources, perhaps building two or three power plants in the county and using some of the current funding available from stimulus monies. Solar power and wind power may give us some energy, but it wont power the entire city of Los Angeles, the largest city in area in the world. Nuclear can do it cheaply and cleanly, except of course for the waste.
And again...the poll. There are no choices. It looks as thought the one who crafted it had some sort of agenda and he wanted to steer readers into some specific answer that he wanted and expected. Does he/she really think we are stupid halfwits that we cannot see the manipulation??
Also...I have a BIG BIG problem with the DWP. They seem invulnerable and supremly non-accountable when it comes to fiscal responsibility. There are countless thousands of layoffs planned for city workers of all types, yet the DWP refuses to trim its own fat.
Many former mayors have tried but failed , to force the DWP to either cut back or cut out . Its as if they were an independant entity, a foreign enclave inviolate to the wishes and demands of the citizens of Los Angeles....modern day Robber Barons!! Whats up with that???


The mayor and DWP are sticking it to LA residents once again. Many LA residents have been forced to agree to pay freezes or even to work fewer hours in order keep their jobs. Our city council, only a few months ago, approved another pay raise for DWP employees, which we as customers pay for. Now our Mayor is trying to increase residential electric rates again by a range of 9% to 28%. Both the Mayor and DWP’s union are out of control. DWP employees are already extremely overpaid (some already make as much as MD’s) we’ve all seen what they consider an honest days work. Even worst than the fat cat employees of the DWP is their union that is running a muck causing constant rate increases. The Mayor is desperate to find ways to make up for the beyond rational excuse of this city debt. We are already paying more in DMV rates, parking fees, moving violations fines, trash pick-up services, and our property taxes ARE going up too. Other ways under consideration to get more money from LA residents are to increase taxes for gas, cigarettes and alcohol again. Also to start charging a tax for soda, increase pet registration fees and charging parents for their kids to go to public schools. The sad part about this is even if the Mayor gets his increases and 100 new taxes, it will solve nothing! It’s time to deal with the elephant(s) in the room and start enforcing our immigration laws, fining business that employ illegals (that will bring in money). Take away the LA city council checkbook, were broke but they keep on spending. Our Mayor should be representing the citizens of LA interest, not in bed with the DWP conspiring further rate increases. His lack of true leadership has already cost LA too much. The DWP’s union has been a huge supporter of this Mayor, but it’s not without a cost, to us. The Mayor and the DWP are in bed together, BUT were the one’s getting screwed!!!

Aza Allen

Here's the thing....
The cost of Green energy WILL go down , it's inevitable because the demand is so high.
So... why do we need to rush into jumping on the green bandwagon at the cost of residents who can't afford their current bills?! I DO AGREE a switch needs to be made, but really all the money is going to be invested in FUTURE green energy, for the most part, not many immediate switches will be made so my first point makes even more sense.

ALSO - what about cutting other costs inside the DWP? My Garbage bill is near $50/month!! Basically they're telling me it costs the city $50 to go from 1 trash can to the next, does that make any sense?!

I vote we clean house 1st, post all costs and expenditures online v. how much they bring in (it should be public knowledge anyway, I would hope) let's find out where all this money goes and start trimming the fat. An unpopular theory of mine would be that Union wages should get cut - they're always, always going up with every contract to adjust for inflation and egos, but what about going down during a recession? Boo hoo if you can't afford your cruise vacation this year, I can't afford to pay my damn electric bill!!!!!!!!!

Marco Ruggio

We need to expand into solar and wind power sources for the FUTURE. Can't continue on like this and expect to survive. Hopefully, private companies will also expand and compete in this area. But we need to start. City council resistance to green power will spell much more expense for the city in the future. Only so much water and power generation possible and you have an expanding population. So unless you're willing to kick in with money or a better way to energize our city: Buy candles and have a party. Want to REALLY help? Make solar power homes affordable and completely independent from the DWP. But let's be real. Anyone heard of a big company out there willing to lose their monthly bill collection from just about everyone under the sun?



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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