The Glendale City Council approved city staff’s selection of Energy and Environmental Economics Inc., or E3, to assist Glendale Water and Power with the development of a plan to increase solar penetration and develop additional distributed energy resources last week, despite mixed feelings from the public and from some members of the dais.
Following Council’s adoption of a resolution in August 2022 which, among other things, set a goal of having at least 10% of GWP customers adopt solar and energy storage systems by 2027, city staff prompted consultants to submit proposals to develop a plan to meet Glendale’s energy goals.
After evaluating proposals from six firms based on qualifications and experiences, proposed methodology, ability to meet budget estimates and more, city staff selected E3, which scored the highest based staff’s weighted criteria.
E3’s proposal begins with a data collection process, where it will examine GWP’s prior plans and studies. E3 will take this information to determine the city’s solar potential and identify a fitting project approach which will include difficulty and cost. Then using data from market research, E3 will customize its approach to various market sectors, customers and publicly owned sites.
Next, E3’s proposal states it will identify robust net metering policy, feed-in tariffs, incentives and rebates. E3 identified time-of-use energy charges and demand charges, grid access charges, subscription charges and income-based customer charges as potential factors the firm will summarize. Additionally, E3 outlined ways in which its plan will streamline a path to adopting distributed energy resources.
Emphasizing its experience with previous projects involving lower-income communities as well as multifamily and rental properties, E3 demonstrated it will apply this knowledge to Glendale’s community. E3 also described what its process will be for creating a cost-benefit analysis for this project, noting that if necessary, E3 will create a separate analysis for low-income households. To read the proposal in full, visit glendaleca.gov/government/public-meeting-portal and click the packet from City Council’s Sept. 12 meeting.
The main points of contention over whether E3 is suitable in developing an energy plan for Glendale was what some deemed as a lack of emphasis on community outreach, the city’s 10% solar energy goal being too ambitious, and concern of E3’s ability to reach the city’s multifamily housing community.
During public comment, former City Council candidate Karen Kwak expressed her concerns with E3’s ability to accommodate the variety of housing structures in Glendale, highlighting that 67% of the city’s residents are renters. Kwak said this presents “a unique challenge” as the people making the decisions to install solar panels in multifamily buildings are not the people who will actually be using and benefitting from them, which she said will result in different cost-benefit analyses.
“Although I respect all the traditional criteria presented by staff, I’m asking they pay special attention to how relevant their experience is in meeting Glendale’s unique challenges,” Kwak said. “That is going to take less of traditional experience and more of an open-minded approach, robust innovation and continuous community engagement.”
Councilwoman Elen Asatryan echoed concerns over how E3 will factor in multifamily housing.
Resident Tammy O’Connor told the Council that she is currently in the process of installing solar panels on her roof and that the process is extremely complicated. Noting that she was on the fence for a long time, O’Connor emphasized the importance of being well informed throughout the process.
“Community outreach and simple information is such a key ingredient of trying to convince any homeowner, including low-income homeowners, to adopt solar,” O’Connor said during public comment. “However, the chosen firm to deliver this plan to GWP does not have a community engagement partner nor a communications firm to work with.”
While E3 noted they would work with their sister company, Willdan, on outreach, O’Connor pointed out that Willdan does not specialize in community outreach.
Currently, E3’s proposal includes three community meetings as a part of the planning process and 88 hours of community outreach, which some residents did not think was enough.
In response to this concern, City Manager Roubik Golanian noted that the current allotted community outreach is related to the development of the energy plan, not the implementation of the plan.
“Nothing is stopping us from adding additional hours to the contract,” Golanian said. “Again, this is for the development of the plan. When we go into the implementation phase, there will be extensive outreach that will outweigh [the 88 hours]. I can assure you of that.”
Mayor Dan Brotman said that while he understands that the community outreach will be greater for the implementation of the plan, he still believes it should be a large part of the development of the plan.
Along with a number of public commenters, Brotman felt the city’s goal of reaching 10% solar was not highlighted enough in E3’s proposal. This prompted him to create an alternative motion regarding the city’s initial request for proposals from consultant firms.
“We should terminate this RFP and develop another one quickly that would place a lot more emphasis on two elements: one is the plan development side and the other is public engagement,” Brotman said.
Regarding the 10% goal not being at forefront of E3’s proposal, Scott Mellon, the assistant general manager of GWP, mentioned that two firms who submitted proposals said that goal was not feasible.
“Every one of the proposers have a very realistic outlook on how difficult this is going to be, and you guys have set a goal for us so we’re aiming to meet that goal, but we have to find a path for it,” Mellon said.
While Asatryan recognized her hesitance to hire E3, she made a motion to accept the firm’s proposal with the following conditions: the contract must specify and speak to the 10% goal; it must place more emphasis on multifamily housing; and there must be more robust community outreach.
“We can’t keep talking about solar and then putting it off and so if these were the concerns that our community members had, then we need to build these into the contract,” Asatryan said.
Councilwoman Paula Devine seconded Asatryan’s motion and highlighted her trust that city staff will help guide E3 through the planning process.
“We are simply hiring a company that’s going to help us plan. Us. They are not acting alone,” Devine said. “I’m hearing ‘Well, they don’t know our community,’ but staff knows our community and staff is going to be working hand in hand with them because they know the community, they know what we need and they know what Council wants.”
Devine also questioned why community members were so sure that E3 was not prepared to be innovative or to think outside the box when developing a plan aimed at Glendale’s energy needs. To that end, Mellon mentioned that city staff found the opposite to be true, noting that he believes E3’s unique past projects would force them to come up with up creative solutions. He also said that what really set E3 apart from the other firms was their “highly relevant” project experience.
While Councilman Ardy Kassakhian expressed interest in seconding Brotman’s motion, Asatryan’s motion was to put to a vote first. Councilman Ara Najarian, Devine and Asatryan voted to move forward with E3, Brotman voted no and Kassakhian abstained.
First published in the September 23 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.