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​Checking Back On Our Vision for 100% Clean Energy in Los Angeles

Posted August 11, 2017 by Sierra Club My Generation

Back in 2016, the Sierra Club launched an effort with friends and allies to move Los Angeles to 100 percent clean energy. Los Angeles has long been plagued with dirty air, and is at increasing risk from climate change. Our dependence on fossil fuels is by far the biggest driver of these two problems.

On the flip side, Los Angeles has everything to gain from the transition to clean energy. Los Angeles is home to more than 115,000 clean energy jobs, even though less than 30 percent of our energy comes from renewables and just a fraction of cars are electric. Given the threats posed by fossil fuels and the benefits of the transition to clean energy, there's no time like the present to organize for 100 percent clean energy.

However, while threats to our environment, health, families, neighbors, and way of life continue, our best defense in Los Angeles has been a good offense. Sierra Club has been buoyed by the progress in the last six months to confront the dominance of the fossil fuel industry and turn a page towards 100 percent clean energy. We have three exciting updates to share:

  • Clean Air: Earlier this year, we (along with partner groups like Earthjustice and Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice) took an important step forward in the transition to 100 percent clean energy when the air district finalized a new clean air plan that we supported. This progress is significant because Los Angeles still has the worst air quality in the United States and across the South Coast region, more than 5,000 people die prematurely each year from breathing dirty air, according to our air regulators. The problem is so severe that the region must swiftly shift away from fossil fuels, reducing smog-forming emissions by upwards of 90 percent. If implemented effectively, the clean air plan will go a long way to cleaning up the air and driving fossil fuels out of the region.
  • Clean Energy: Since passing a motion last year to study 100 percent clean energy, the Department of Water and Power has taken some really great steps towards this goal. First, the utility adopted a new interim clean energy goal of 50 percent clean energy by 2025. It also doubled its energy storage goals and proposed a plan to install nearly 1,000 megawatts of rooftop solar around Los Angeles by 2025. In June, the utility announced it was hitting pause on plans to build three large gas plants while it studies clean energy alternatives. Most recently, the utility kicked off its 100 percent clean energy working group, which includes Sierra Club and other allies. Needless to say, it's been a fast-paced first half of the year at the utility.
  • Clean Transportation: Working with labor and environmental advocates, we launched a coalition to encourage Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency to transition to 100 percent electric buses by 2030. The coalition's goals also include ensuring union jobs to build the buses and charging infrastructure, clean power to charge the buses, and priority benefits to low-income communities and communities of color. The effort has been met with fierce opposition from the natural gas industry, which currently powers Metro's buses, but success is in reach. In May, Mayor Garcetti sent a letter to the agency's CEO, requesting a plan for 100 percent electric buses. In June, staff presented a draft plan to make it happen. We haven't won yet, but it's inspiring to think that one major piece of the clean transportation puzzle may be in place soon.

Looking ahead, we still have a lot of work to do, but the future is bright. Up next? Los Angeles Metro's Board will consider a policy to accelerate the transition the 100 percent electric by 2030 in July. Through the summer and fall, our local utility will continue to chart its course towards 100 percent clean energy (no doubt with a few bumps along the way). All the while, the people of Los Angeles will continue to fight for a future defined not by who we aren't and what we're against, but by who we are, our values, and our vision for the future.