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Climate and Environment

LA County Votes To Move More Than A Million Customers To 100% Renewable Energy

An image of wind-powered turbines in the foreground at night as city lights glow in the background.
Giant wind turbines are powered by strong winds near Palm Springs
(David McNew
Getty Images)
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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to unhook more than a million Angelenos in unincorporated areas of the county from fossil fuels. The move is another step towards reaching the county’s, and the world’s, goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The burning of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal for our home electricity is one of the largest causes of global heating. Here in California, the effects of that heating show themselves primarily in worsening heatwaves, wildfires, drought and rising sea levels.

But unincorporated areas in L.A. County will be transitioning to get 100% of their energy from renewable sources, including wind and solar.

Already, 95% of residents and businesses in unincorporated areas of the county get 50% of their energy from renewable energy sources through the Clean Power Alliance.

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Tuesday’s vote starts the process of shifting that default rate from 50 to 100%. The transition will take two to three years, according to the motion filed by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

Clean Power Alliance

The county established the Clean Power Alliance in 2017. It’s what’s known as a Community Choice Aggregator, which means it buys power directly on the open energy market, and then uses existing Southern California Edison power lines to ship the energy to customers.

The Clean Power Alliance gets most of its energy from wind and solar farms in California, and gets additional energy from geothermal and small hydroelectric facilities.

Tuesday’s vote means customers in unincorporated areas now join 37 cities in Los Angeles and Ventura counties that get their power through the alliance. Fifteen of those cities, home to more than 850,000 people, already have their default rates set to 100% renewables. The policy shift makes unincorporated L.A. County the single largest jurisdiction in the U.S. that has implemented a 100% renewable energy policy, according to Kuehl.

“Shifting our customers in unincorporated county and all of our county buildings is the single most impactful action our county can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Kuehl said.

The change is expected to bump rates by about $5 per month for residential customers, but charges won’t rise for people in rate assistance programs. Customers still can choose to change their rates by going with a plan that relies more on fossil fuels, or they can opt out entirely and get their power from Southern California Edison.

Fossil fuels are not always cheaper though. Worldwide, solar and wind power prices continue to fall year after year. In 2020, 90% of electricity generated from renewable energy was less expensive than electricity produced from fossil fuels.

And Edison rates are expected to increase by 20% next spring, making their rates higher than the Clean Power Alliance’s 100% renewable rate.

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