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Cities stack their energy portfolio

Glendale and Burbank utilities look for ways to capitalize on renewable sources.

October 02, 2011|By Mark Kellam and Brittany Levine mark.kellam@latimes.com, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • City of Burbank Telecommunications and Facilities manager John Cassidy talks about the green roof at the city's Water & Power building on Magnolia Ave. in Burbank on Wednesday, September 28, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
City of Burbank Telecommunications and Facilities manager…

It’s a tale of two cities in two very different positions as the utilities in Burbank and Glendale work to meet strict state mandates for using renewable energy.

At 21%, Glendale Water & Power is ahead of schedule in hitting the first benchmark — that public utilities must get 20% of their power from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal, by Dec. 31, 2013.

Steve Lins, assistant general manager of supplies, told the Glendale City Council on Tuesday that the utility was “well on track.”

“We’re way ahead of the game,” he said.

It’s a different story in Burbank, where the utility’s renewable energy portfolio is at only 9%. Burbank Water and Power officials insist they will meet the benchmarks — 20% before 2014 and 25% before 2017 — and the end target of 33% by 2020.

Fred Fletcher, Burbank Water and Power’s assistant general manager, said the utility will buy bio-gas — a more expensive form of natural gas — to meet the 2013 benchmark. Bio-gas runs about $11 per million BTUs, compared with $4.50 for natural gas, he said.

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But the expense for not hitting the state goals could be costlier.

If a utility doesn’t meet an interim deadline, hefty fines range from $1,000 to $75,000 per day, according to the California Air Resources Board, the agency assigned to enforce the state mandate.

Fines would be levied on a case-by-case basis, considering the severity of the infraction and its longevity, said agency spokesman Dimitri Stanich.

The heaviest fines would be levied for violations that result from “willful and intentional conduct,” according to the agency.

One large renewable project already online for Burbank Water and Power is a facility that uses gas from a landfill in Santa Clarita and turns it into methane gas for energy, Fletcher said.

Jeanette Meyer, marketing manager for Burbank Water and Power, said reaching the 2020 deadline requires large projects, so progress won’t follow a steady path. Instead, it will come in chunks as large projects come online.

Fletcher said large projects often require partnering with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, which has pulled out of projects in the past, such as a geo-thermal project in Imperial County a few years ago.

“All the work we had done for two years disappeared,” Fletcher said.

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