Pasadena has a special opportunity, with its publicly owned utility, to rethink what a power company should be in the 21st century, as the fossil-fuel era comes to a close.
By Claudia Funke
On January 30, 2023, the Pasadena City Council unanimously passed Resolution 9977, declaring a climate emergency. The resolution specifically directed the city’s publicly owned utility, Pasadena Water and Power (PWP), to use its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to plan for the transition to 100% carbon free electricity by 2030. Switching to carbon free sources to generate electricity is one of the most impactful actions that any city can take to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
That evening, one year ago, concerned Pasadena residents packed the Council chamber. The attendees included members of PASADENA 100, a coalition of 23 nonprofits that spearheaded the carbon free by 2030 goal. Also present were individuals from Pasadena City College and Pasadena Unified School District, both of which passed their own climate emergency and carbon free electricity resolutions, leading up to the city’s. The Council recognized the message of this local grassroots movement with Resolution 9977.
The end of year always brings reflection and reckoning, or at least it should. In New Year’s resolution parlance, did we go to the gym or not?
Where was the city at the end of 2023, the hottest year on record, and one marked by multiple climate-related disasters? At the December 11, 2023 Council meeting, PWP presented its third draft IRP, having twice been sent back to the drawing board by the Municipal Services Committee. The over 300-page document included a plan to achieve 55% carbon free electricity by 2028, with no path to 100% in the remaining two years. PWP had failed to use the different energy-sourcing scenarios (produced by consultants paid hundreds of thousands of dollars) as building blocks, to craft an optimized plan.
Again, it was standing room only in the Council chamber, for a meeting that lasted over four hours. Over 25 speakers gave voice to the need for climate action and expressed frustration about the failure to develop a plan for the transition. Over 40 letters expressed support for the carbon-free goal and concern about the IRP.
The end result? A motion passed unanimously to submit the IRP to the state, because of the looming deadline. Council also directed PWP to produce an optimized plan for the 2030 goal in six months, working with an independent green energy consultant that would report to the city manager.
So, 2023’s New Year’s resolution is 2024’s. That happens. But this is not about going to the gym. Councilmember Jason Lyon called carbon free by 2030 “a central city goal.” And Councilmember Jess Rivas articulated the urgency, “It’s not the time for aspirations, it’s the time for action.”
On the first anniversary of Resolution 9977, January 30, 2024, PASADENA 100 invites people to meet at 4:30 pm and march from PWP’s offices at 150 S. Robles Ave. to City Hall at 100 Garfield Ave.
Claudia Funke is a resident of Pasadena’s District 7 and a member of the steering committee of PASADENA 100.
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