Environmental Groups Urge A New Los Angeles Utility Leader to Commit to Sustainability

By the Policy & Legislative Affairs Department LADWP

Ron Nichols officially steps down this week as General Manager (GM) of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) after leading the organization for three years. As Mayor Garcetti considers candidates to replace Nichols, Global Green USA, as part of the Los Angeles Clean Energy Coalition, sent a letter to the Mayor urging him to choose a leader that can successfully commit the utility to climate change mitigation, increased renewable energy, and an era of openness, stability and transparency.

LADWP is the largest publicly owned municipality in the United States.  It provides water and electricity to almost 4 million people spread over 450 miles. Unfortunately, the utility gets almost 40% of its electricity from dirty coal, and until recently, has been slow to embrace energy efficiency or renewables. That’s why environmental groups started the Los Angeles Clean Energy Coalition, with goals of pushing the utility to invest in clean energy, to eliminate coal, and to make Los Angeles a model of sustainability. The Coalition is made up of six organizations – Global Green USA, Sierra Club, The Los Angeles Business Council, Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and Environment California.

The LADWP’s GM has tremendous influence over the utilities decisions and investments, and the Coalition wants to ensure that the next leader shares the Coalition's values.  A successful candidate should share our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from fossil fuels, especially considering Los Angeles is particularly vulnerable to climate change. This includes support for both renewable energy (including 1,200 MW of local solar and a 600 MW FIT) and energy efficiency (including 15% energy savings by 2020). The LADWP has set goals to meet state-mandated targets as well as committing to be coal free by 2025, but we believe even more ambitious commitments would advance Los Angeles towards a comprehensive clean energy plan, while also promoting job growth and energy savings to local communities.

The Coalition also recommended that the Mayor consider diversity when hiring a new GM, and look for someone that will bring flexibility and an entrepreneurial spirit to the position. On that same note, the new GM should have utility sector experience, and should be able to make a commitment to stay in the job for at least five years. Finally, we expressed hope that a new GM would be committed to reform, and shepherd the city into an age of transparency and open communication between the utility and its customers.

We expect the Mayor to choose and announce the new GM in the very near future, and we look forward to meeting with him or her to discuss how we can work together towards a more sustainable Los Angeles.