By John Orona
With only 12 years left to limit the accelerating effects of climate change, Pasadena’s latest energy plan continues to procure 31 percent of its power from the Intermountain coal-fired plant through 2025, despite being the Pasadena Water and Power’s (PWP) largest climate change driver.
PWP’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) outlined several procurement scenarios — including some that would divest the city of Intermountain Power Plant (IPP) energy, increase biomass production and diversify the renewable energy portfolio — before ultimately recommending an option that goes beyond state regulations but falls short of comparable emission-curtailing scenarios.
The adopted plan will ensure that all new long-term energy contracts are from renewable or zero carbon emitting resources, will decline to renew the fossil-fueled IPP contract when it expires in 2027 and will increase renewable portfolio standards 60 percent and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 75 percent by 2030.
However, some in the community are urging the city to go further in its commitment, including IRP Stakeholders Technical Advisory Group (STAG) member Cary Belling. STAG was the primary community input committee for the IRP.
“With the recent reports on the great importance of combating climate change from both United Nations and United States governmental agencies, we believe Pasadena bears responsibility to take aggressive action to protect the well-being of our community,” Belling, a representative of the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church Green Council, wrote in a letter to the City Council.
Belling asked the council to petition regulatory agencies that might stop or penalize Pasadena should it decide to lower, sell or stop energy draw from the IPP in Utah. The city gets 31 percent of its power from coal and 38 percent from renewable resources, compared to state averages of 4 and 29 percent, respectively.
In the IRP scenarios that exclude the IPP source, the energy loss from the coal-fired plant will be made up for with the output of a geothermal site starting in 2019. The recommended plan would reduce total annual emissions by 24 percent compared to the Base Case given in the report, from 4.26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions down to 3.25 million. However, eliminating the fossil fuel plant would decrease emissions by 83 percent and immediately meet the 75 percent GHG reduction goal while maintaining a total annual cost to ratepayers identical to the recommended plan after 2025, when the IPP’s fixed costs are paid off.
According to the PWP website, the goal of the IRP is to provide a portfolio of power supply resources that balance “system reliability, environmental stewardship, and competitive and stable rates.” In creating rubrics to score each potential portfolio scenario based on community input, however, the scoring system weighed heavily towards cost/ratepayer impact (40 percent), even surpassing regulatory compliance (35 percent) and doubling concern for environmental stewardship (20 percent), with the remaining 5 percent going toward energy source diversity.
The IRP’s community survey results showed that 35 percent of respondents believe Pasadena should prioritize exceeding compliance requirements and 11 percent want to meet compliance demands, while the next largest group, 32 percent, wants to keep costs down. Additionally, about two-thirds of survey responders indicated a willingness to pay an additional 5-10 percent on their total electric bill if it meant lower GHG emissions or reduced health impacts.
Just a 2 degree centigrade increase in global temperatures could be catastrophic for the planet, according to UN climate scientists.