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Community Presses LADWP to Invest in Energy Efficiency & Jobs

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The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board will hold a meeting Thursday to vote on increasing its energy efficiency goal to comply with state standards and to dramatically increase its energy efficiency budget, LADWP GM Ron Nichols announced recently at a RePower LA Town Hall.

At the meeting, held at L.A. Conservation Corps, Nichols also expressed support for funding programs that help struggling customers at a time when the LADWP faces pressure to raise rates and to build on the success of the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee program, which IBEW Local 18 launched last May with the department.

RePower LA Town Hall Panel: Regina Cato, IBEW Local 18; Janet Marinaccio, Goodwill Worksource Center; Ernest Melendrez, Friends Outside; Jonathan Zazueta, Aracely Farias, LA Conservation Corps

This was good news to Town Hall attendees, who have been organizing for more than a year and a half to get LADWP to invest in energy efficiency programs that help small-business and lower-income customers, and create good, career-path jobs for L.A. communities hurt by the recession.

The Town Hall was co-sponsored by L.A. City Councilmember Ed Reyes, who advocated for energy efficiency investment connected to the creation of family-supporting jobs. He was joined by Deputy Mayor Matt Szabo, who stressed the need for programs that serve all of Los Angeles.

Other sponsors were Urban Semillas, L.A. Conservation Corps, LAANE and Goodwill Metro North Worksource Center. Representatives of those organizations called for training programs that lead to good jobs for residents—including those who face barriers to employment—and the importance of engaging communities in the development of energy efficiency programs.

East L.A. resident Steve Mata, one of the Utility Pre-Craft Trainees, spoke about the satisfaction he got from working on a federally funded weatherization program that is helping low-income customers save money on their bills. Regina Cato, an IBEW Local 18 meter setter, talked about her work to expand opportunities for women and the unemployed at the LADWP through a class she teaches. Also in attendance were representatives of SCOPE, Sierra Club and Friends Outside and neighborhood council leaders from Sylmar and Glassell Park.

“It is encouraging to see the Department increasing its budget for energy efficiency, but now more than ever we need to stress the importance of quality training and jobs that provide our customers with the best service and allow families to support themselves in dignity,” said Brian D’Arcy, Business Manager for IBEW Local 18, who led the effort to create the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee program.

The Department’s current goal of reducing energy consumption 8.6 percent by 2020 does not comply with state standards of 10 percent and does little to address the growing population and energy use projected for Los Angeles. The RePower LA Coalition has been pushing the department to increase its goal to 15 percent. The energy efficiency budget will be considered as part of the overall LADWP budget at a May 24 board meeting.

Sierra Club’s Aura Vasquez applauded Nichols’ announcement. “This is a step in the right direction. Los Angeles needs to decrease its reliance on out-of-state coal plants and invest in energy efficiency programs that protect communities hard hit by the recession and create good, local jobs. Over the next few weeks, it is important that Mr. Nichols and LADWP provide clarity as to how this renewed investment in energy efficiency translates to a much larger reduction in energy use for the utility and greater bill savings for its customers.”

Ernest Melendrez with Friends Outside emphasized the importance of job opportunities for people with barriers to employment during the Town Hall. “Through RePower LA we have an opportunity to invite leaders like Mr. Nichols here to express what we need. It’s not just about jobs in our communities, but making sure we have opportunities for those who’ve been formerly incarcerated. We need to use our voices to support our communities.”

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