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Sep. 26th, 2008 | 09:39 am

Last night I went to the first public meeting for the Integrated Resource Planning report for Pasadena Water & Power (PWP). The next meeting is Oct 15th.

The purpose of this report is to set the plan for how PWP should develop over the next 20 years (or so). Where should we buy our power, how strongly should should we pursue renewables and so forth.
The consultant outlined the basic plan for community involvement, and highlighted the "proposed objectives and evaluation critera" that were developed by some combination of the consultants, PWP staff, and the Stakeholder Advisory group.

The "Primary Objectives and Evaluation Criteria" were "Provide Reliable Service", "Strive for Environmental Leadership", "Maintain Stable Rates", "Preserve Competitive Rates". The additional proposed evaulation considerations were "Allow for flexibility", "Manage market Risks", and "Maintain Fiscal Health".

The consultant presenting was expecting "The Public", what he got was a bunch of professionals, several of whom work or worked for energy companies. In addition I know 3 of about 15 there are current sitting transportation advisory commissioners, and I expect several others may have been from other commissions. There was a representative from Caltech's utility plant, (Even though Caltech has 12.5 MW of on-site generation they're still PWP's biggest customer).

If it was up to the public in that room, Pasadena would be reselling its long term coal contracts and replacing them distributed solar, as most of us can afford rate increases some. I doubt utility bills were a significant expense for anyone there.

A number of us also wanted more data, we wanted to see what the peak and off peak costs were? PV might look quite affordable when compared to the peak price as it produces the most power during peak loads. (Sunny days == lots of air conditioning).

We spoke about the role of efficiency, that most of the HVAC system for residences are oversized, there was some debate about how well PWP is doing pushing conservation and efficiency and their solar program. Several of us complained about retail businesses leaving their doors open and letting all their cold air spill out on the street. (And perhaps the city hall doesn't need all those flood lights on it all the time).

I wanted some thought to be given to the renter whose stuck paying the utility bill for whatever cheap equipment the landlord felt like installing.

One interesting idea mentioned (by the consultant) was a potential role for the city to take by investing in energy efficient capital improvements and then being paid back over time for that improvement. (For example, we'll replace your refrigerator for free and lower utility bill by X, but you pay us 1/2 X until we recover the cost of the upgrade).

There was also some discussion about the $12 million dividend that goes from the utility to the city, should the city take that much? Is there a way to conserve, reduce the amount being paid to the utility but still make sure there's a decent dividend to fund city projects?

Another important concern was that notice for this "public" meetings was pathetic, the only people who showed up were insiders. (I had a moment of personal surprise... when did I become an insider?)

In a microcosm this shows one of the problems of democracy, the people who show up to participate in the process are the wealthier and better connected. Should we get to try and set the rules for everyone? Technically those of us who showed up were better informed about the issues with power generation than the average person, but we can't really speak for the personal experience of the wider community.

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Comments {2}


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from: sapience
date: Sep. 26th, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC)

Nothing useful to add, except that I find this all kinds of cool and fascinating. I'm glad you're involved in this, and that you're sharing it with us.

What I'd like to know is why general high school education doesn't information about city planning, public meetings, etc. I didn't even realize that this sort of thing existed before. I thought elected officials took care of all of it, and we were just stuck with whatever whomever was elected wanted to do. How can anyone expect the public to get involved if the public doesn't even know about the process, or that they have a voice in it?

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Sep. 27th, 2008 05:18 am (UTC)

Yes, much like the media my government class also focused on the federal government and a bit about the state government. I think the only way people find out about the existence of their city council by flipping through public access channels.

Elected officials deal with all the stuff by appointing people to read through all the boring stuff.

The are lots of requirements that cities provide opportunity for citizen input. Depending on how professional your city is they may or may not make it hard to find out about the meetings though.

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