LOS ANGELES (November 16, 2023) – The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced today a comprehensive plan to build, operate and maintain a city-owned network of electric vehicle (EV) ‘fast-charger’ stations in the city’s underserved communities, ensuring that working-class Angelenos share in the benefits of L.A.’s transition to a clean energy future. The EV charging plaza network is the cornerstone of LADWP’s ‘Powered by Equity’ initiative, which seeks to ensure that all customers can realize the full benefits of L.A.’s clean energy future.
LADWP’s ‘Powered by Equity’ initiative comes on the heels of the public release of LA100 Equity Strategies, an expansive and detailed two-year research study undertaken with significant community input by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). LA100 Equity Strategies provides a detailed analysis of L.A.’s clean energy investment inequities and recommends policies and programs to address them.
Cynthia McClain-Hill, President, Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners, said, “L.A. is home to some of our nation’s wealthiest enclaves, many of our state’s poorest neighborhoods, and an array of middle-class and working-class communities. Our clean energy future must be meaningful and beneficial for our customers citywide. Moving forward, our clean energy future will be ‘Powered by Equity.’ Our path forward is to continue ‘Leading with Equity’ in how we fashion the framework for our city’s clean energy future.
“We have an opportunity to be innovative and bold. We have an opportunity to shape our clean energy future in a manner that delivers benefits to community residents and our LADWP customers in the neighborhoods where they live. We’re making a conscious decision to take intentional clean energy actions that are ‘Powered by Equity’ as recommended by the newly released LA100 Equity Strategies research study. We serve four million residential and business customers across a diverse spectrum – rich and poor alike. LADWP’s mission must be to enable our customers to benefit from our transition to clean energy, not be left to bear onerous economic burdens because of it.”
LADWP’s ‘Powered by Equity’ initiative aims to ensure that all Angelenos benefit from the City’s commitment to achieving a carbon-free energy future. The centerpiece of the initiative is providing city-owned battery electric vehicle charging infrastructure in underserved communities where EV charging capacity currently lags far behind that found in more affluent communities. To support the transition to EVs for Angelenos, LADWP is also increasing its Used EV Rebate from $2,500 to $4,000 for customers participating in the Lifeline or EZ-SAVE discount rate programs.
In addition to building EV charging stations in underserved communities throughout L.A., LADWP plans to expand and add equity components to a variety of clean energy programs, including solar utilization, energy efficiency, job creation and training, electric vehicle rebates, utility upgrades to support home EV charger installations, point-of-sale rebates for home cooling, and extending LADWP’s plans for resiliency hubs.
“The Sierra Club celebrates L.A.’s leadership in its call for an equitable transition to 100% clean energy by 2035. We have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to craft a grid that’s both clean and fair, prioritizing local resilience, reliability, and affordability for communities that have shouldered the pollution burden for too long,” said Morgan Goodwin, Senior Director of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter. “Through continued collaboration with environmental justice, climate, and labor partners, LADWP can set the blueprint to lead the rest of the world in what an equitable and just clean energy transition looks like.”
The ambitious LA100 Equity Strategies research project included data analysis and recommendations that were based on two years of input from over 100 community members, 14 community-based organizations, and 31 additional stakeholders in Los Angeles. Through extensive community engagement and data collection, NREL and UCLA synthesized their findings into dozens of possible equitable clean energy transition strategies.
NREL and UCLA identified community-informed practical approaches Los Angeles can implement to ensure every Angeleno participates in and benefits from the City’s clean energy transition. Included among their more than 50 clean energy approaches, NREL and UCLA recommended:
• Clean energy investments all households and small businesses can access and benefit from, such as shared solar power generation, public electric vehicle charging stations, and electrification of school and transit buses.
• Providing indoor cooling to low-income residents living in multifamily buildings who are at the highest public health risk from extreme heat made more frequent and longer lasting due to climate change.
• Utility rate reform to improve monthly power use affordability.
NREL’s first-of-its-kind LA100 Equity Strategies project was commissioned by LADWP in 2021 following completion of the groundbreaking Los Angeles 100% Renewable Energy (LA100) study, which provided city leaders with a comprehensive outlook for LADWP’s wind and solar electric power generation and the deployment of storage technologies for electricity distribution by 2035.
While LA100 found that all communities in Los Angeles would share in the environmental and public health benefits of the City’s clean energy transition, the study also emphasized that improving equitable participation and outcomes for every resident would require intentionally designed policies and programs. Under the leadership of President McClain-Hill, LADWP launched LA100 Equity Strategies to determine intentionally designed approaches to achieving a clean and equitable energy future, based on strategies identified by community members.
Since the study began, LADWP has expanded existing equity strategies or adopted new measures. ‘Powered by Equity’ initiatives already underway include LADWP’s Cool-LA program, which has provided more than 7,500 free or reduced-cost air conditioners over the past year to qualifying customers to help them beat the heat; protections against utility shutoffs for low-income customers unable to pay their utility bills; LADWP’s Level-Pay program, which allows customers to spread the cost of their City utility bill across the entire year, eliminating the seasonable peaks and valleys in a customer’s monthly power bills that makes budgeting difficult for residents, especially those who struggle to pay their household bills; and Shared Solar, which enables residential customers living in multifamily dwellings to fix a portion of their electric bill against rising utility costs for 10 years, as well as support renewable energy, help create local jobs, help reduce the carbon footprint of LADWP’s power generation portfolio and lessen the impact of global warming.
For the LA100 Equity Strategies study, NREL utilized procedural, recognition, and distributional justice tenets and processes to guide its engagement with Los Angeles stakeholders and inform its analysis approaches. The project identified community-informed approaches that Los Angeles can take to help ensure every Angeleno participates in and benefits from the clean energy transition.
“The LA100 Equity Strategies project was driven by the voices and expressed opinions of the people of Los Angeles,” said Kate Anderson, NREL Strategy Lead and Project Lead for LA100 Equity Strategies. “For these strategies to be successful, we knew we needed to tailor them to the needs of the City’s entire community. The challenges and goals our community partners shared with us shaped this project and strongly influenced its findings.”
“No other utility in the United States has made a commitment to not only 100% renewable, but making sure it’s implemented equitably,” said Stephanie Pincetl, a co-author of the report and director of the UCLA California Center for Sustainable Communities. “This is the power of a municipal utility, a utility owned by and for its customers.”
Bishop Noel Jones, City of Refuge Church, is working with the City of Los Angeles to create an EV partnership that will install EV chargers at churches in Los Angeles. “We are extremely glad to be a part of the partnership that is being put forward by not only our mayor but by LADWP. And I guarantee you that with their support, and our support, we’re going to make things happen and change things,” Bishop Jones said.
At the start of LA100 Equity Strategies research activities, LADWP, NREL and UCLA formed a steering committee composed of leaders from 14 community-based organizations which met monthly to provide guidance and facilitate listening sessions with their community members. Through these interactive sessions, the Equity Strategies project team identified five priority areas to guide their work:
• Inclusive community involvement
• Affordability and burdens
• Access to and use of energy technologies, programs, and infrastructure
• Health, safety, and community resilience
• Jobs and workforce development
The team synthesized the ongoing community guidance and overlayed it with research on current and past inequities and extensive modeling and analysis, including detailed modeling of 50,000 representative L.A. homes across different housing types, efficiency levels, and climate zones. “Our community engagement, modeling, and analysis all had to work in tandem,” Anderson said. “Each piece was crucial to identifying tangible, actionable strategies that could improve equity in the city’s clean energy transition.”
The project found that historical LADWP clean energy program investments are inequitable. For example, only 23% of EV incentives and 38% of solar incentives go to LADWP customers living in disadvantaged communities. A 100% clean energy transition calls for a major shift in how clean energy investments are allocated. This includes focusing investments on resources that all households can access like shared solar, public charging stations, and electrification of school buses, transit buses, and the City fleet.
In the face of increasing heat waves, 230,000 low-income households are projected to experience more than two months of exposure to dangerous indoor air temperatures annually by 2035. Ensuring safe temperatures for L.A.’s residents involves a particular focus on providing cooling to low-income multifamily-building residents, who are at the highest risk.
The proposed equity strategies expand activities and programs that are already working in Los Angeles. In addition, the strategies recommend new approaches to improve community engagement, strategic technology and infrastructure investments, and the design of new programs and policies. Cost-benefit trade-offs and metrics to inform implementation and evaluation are also assessed.
The NREL team categorized proposed strategies by ease of implementation, impact, and prerequisites for long-term success. Some strategies are ready to be implemented immediately, while others may require several years to bring to fruition and require action from various agencies across Los Angeles.
Though the LA100 Equity Strategies project is specific to Los Angeles, its equity-based principles and research methodologies can serve as a blueprint for other utilities and metropolitan areas pursuing their own ambitious, equitable clean energy goals.