a power plant and buildings behind it

      Pasadena as seen from PWP power plant, 2019 (Photo – ColoradoBlvd.net)

      “Have Your People Call My People!” People actually say that.

      By Cynthia Cannady

      Pasadena Water and Power (PWP) this week proposed to hire a third set of consultants to study our electric power system. The 2nd and 3rd firms will be working in parallel (at the same time).  They will have to call each other to see how they are progressing.  And bill ratepayers for their time.

      Having once been in the business of charging clients for my time (as a lawyer) I know a thing or two about that process.  Birds have to fly. Consultants have to consult.

      Firm #1

      In the case of PWP, the first consultants were Indiana oil and gas guys who during 2023 consulted with the PWP staff and kind of consulted with the Stakeholder Technical Advisory Group (STAG), ultimately charging our city somewhere short of $700,000.  But after complaints from STAG members, PWP brought in Firm #2 to check Firm #1’s work, for only a few dozen thousand dollars.  The result was an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that had to be finished up because it was late and had to be filed by December of last year. PWP took to calling it “just a compliance document,” meaning that it wasn’t really a plan.

      Firm #2

      Since we didn’t have a plan, PWP rehired Firm #2 to do a real plan, called the Optimized Strategic Plan (OSP) which is to be finished by the spring of 2025. That will cost around $1.2 million and hopefully will be worth the cost because the deliverable will be a real plan.

      Firm #3

      Now PWP is asking the City Council to hire Firm #3, new consultants from Colorado, who will do a “cost of service” study to help figure out how much ratepayers will have to pay in utility bills based on all the things that are supposed to happen with the plan that we don’t have yet.  How can consultants from Firm #3 make recommendations related to costs when Pasadena, with Firm #2’s help, has not made planning decisions about major costs like Glenarm repurposing, the Goodrich bottleneck, increasing rooftop solar, and demand reduction targets?

      It’s like planning a cross country trip’s gas mileage before you know your route.

      Political battles?

      Also, the Scope of Work for Firm #3 covers some of the same subjects that Firm #2 is to cover.  Are we using different consulting firms to fight political battles over the transition to carbon free electric power?

      PWP says it could contract first for the financial modeling tools and for a run of those tools based on current rates, and then wait for the OSP to finish before spending money on modeling the future cost impacts.  Why not do that?

      PWP says that the two consulting firms will be synchronized with each other.  Firm #2 people will call Firm #3 people. Will the two firms bill ratepayers for the time they have to spend talking to each other to get information? The new proposed Firm #3 contract is a “time and materials” contract, so the answer is yes.

      Have Your Consultant Call My Consultant

      This is all on top of the other consulting firms hired for water studies and the production of glossy but unused Climate Action Plans. Doesn’t our city have any of our own People on staff who can do the work?

      It’s time for our City Council to say no to the consultant extravaganza, or at least to ask hard questions (and actually insist on answers).  Do we need staff that is more capable of planning?  What about prioritizing spending ratepayer money on urgent and overdue infrastructure investments?  What about helping strapped low-to-middle income ratepayers with community solar? What about prioritizing the public and private infrastructure investment we need to transition to carbon free electric power?

      Cynthia Cannady is a member of the Bars of California and the District of Columbia, served on the Pasadena Stakeholder Technical Advisory Group for the Integrated Resource Plan, and is co- Chair of the PASADENA 100 Coalition.





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