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L.A.’s Big Energy Shift: Goodbye Dirty Coal

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Al Gore, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others celebrate at DWP headquarters

Last week I stood with hundreds of proud Angelenos outside the Department of Water and Power headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate a momentous announcement for the city and our environment. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proclaimed that Los Angeles will be completely off of coal power before 2025.

It will be a monumental shift.

“It took one hundred years to build up the power supply the DWP has today,” the Mayor explained, “but in a decade and a half, we’re going to replace 70 percent of it.”  “Right now, 40 percent of our power comes from coal plants. But by 2025, that number will be zero.”

With the spotlight on our city, we were joined by national environmental leaders such as former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune.

“This is a really big deal,” Gore said emphatically. “Americans worry that government is broken, but you’re inspiring hope that democracy works in America.”

Announcing that Los Angeles was on the path to being coal-free would have been all but unimaginable just a few years ago, when we were one of the most coal-reliant big cities around. Now, thanks to the hard work of environmental advocates, dedication of labor and community leaders, and bold steps of our mayor, city council and utility commissioners, we are in the midst of a metamorphosis.

RePower LA is proud to be part of this transformation. As a result of our advocacy and that of coalition members, energy efficiency is a key part of Los Angeles’ energy plan. We helped convince LADWP that the cheapest, cleanest and easiest way to cut coal power is not to need so much energy in the first place. We are also showing the potential of transforming our utility system, not only to keep the lights on and the water running,  but also to power our economy and sustain our communities.

Al Gore agreed, telling the crowd this morning that moving away from fossil fuels can be part of economic empowerment, development and prosperity.

“Green jobs have grown three times as fast as other sectors,” he pointed out.

The energy efficiency programs that RePower LA helped create with the department and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, like the Home Energy Improvement Program, are already doing this in a concrete way. The programs create good career-path unionized jobs, accessible to people from every community, particularly those where opportunities for good jobs have been scarce. At the other end of the power lines, ambitious green power projects are replacing dirty fossil fuel plants while partnering with building trades to ensure that the next generation of energy creation also produces good jobs for local communities.

There will be many more opportunities to combine environmental and economic wins as we transform our energy system. And I’m confident we’ll make the most of these opportunities as long as we make sure that stakeholders, from environmental advocates to community organizations to workers’ unions, are engaged and working together to power our way forward.

As former Vice President Gore said in lauding our progress as one of five global cities leading the way in attacking carbon emissions, “We can and we must and we will win the conversation on carbon, because we have been inspired by the City of Angels and by Mayor Villaraigosa.”

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