UCLA guides LADWP as it pursues the first equity-focused clean energy transition

LCI’s first-of-its-kind study includes recommendations on how to expand low-income customer protections

LADWP Receiving Station U, Tarzana. Courtesy of Steve Devol / Flickr

How can the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) ensure historically disadvantaged communities aren’t left behind in Los Angeles’ transition to 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2035?

The public utility asked, and more than 20 UCLA faculty and researchers with expertise in engineering, environmental science, law, labor studies, public health, and public policy answer in a new report, LA100 Equity Strategies.

Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) researchers, in partnership with Rachel Sheinberg, wrote Chapter 13: Energy Affordability and Policy Solutions, providing specific recommendations for robust, long-term, structural solutions to LADWP’s customers’ ability to pay their bills.

By analyzing eight metrics and 11 policies, LCI researchers found that while LADWP has made significant strides to address affordability through its landmark shutoff moratorium, protections for low-income customers must be expanded. They assert that

  1. Affordability is a key equity concern for all stakeholders;
  2. Ensuring healthy indoor temperatures is essential;
  3. Bill complexity and legal obstacles create affordability challenges; and
  4. Promising, novel affordability policies should be evaluated.

“No other major city or utility has fully analyzed how to equitably transition to a clean energy economy,” said Gregory Pierce, co-executive director of LCI. “Rather than perpetuating systemic inequities, we have an opportunity to transform utility approaches to avoid placing additional burdens on those who can least afford them.”

The researchers recommend that LADWP take the following actions, among several others (see graphic below):

  1. Reduce total bills, expand shutoff protections, and increase discount program enrollment for low-income customers.
  2. Adopt specific metrics and policies to ensure healthy indoor temperatures.
  3. Evaluate, enhance, consolidate, and scale up the Comprehensive Affordable Multifamily Retrofits program and the virtual net energy metering pilot.

This report builds on LCI’s ongoing research and engagement on utility affordability and energy equity more broadly at the state and local level. It complements the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s findings on affordability-focused rate structure and on-bill financing (Chapter 5) as well as the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge’s analysis of affordability for small ethnic-owned businesses (Chapter 14).

This research was made possible through an existing agreement between LADWP and the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge.

Key findings and recommendations for electricity affordability in Los Angeles