The Glendale City Council narrowly voted 3-2 on Tuesday to reject Glendale Water & Power’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan, which would have led the city to 100% clean energy by 2045 — as mandated by the state of California — instead of by 2035, a goal adopted by the Council in 2022.
As part of the IRP process, GWP laid out six potential energy plans which they call “scenarios,” in collaboration with a Stakeholder Technical Advisory Group (STAG) consisting of more than a dozen community members. Despite burgeoning costs to reach the 2035 clean energy goal, Council held fast to its previous commitment, ultimately ordering GWP to redraft the IRP.
In line with Senate Bill 350, the city must submit an IRP to the California Energy Commission every five years outlining its energy needs and strategies to meet those needs over the next 20 years.
Scenario 1, which was proposed to and rejected by the Council, would meet the state’s energy requirements including supplying 60% of the city’s energy load with renewable energy by 2030 and reaching 100% zero-carbon by 2045. Relying mainly on proven renewable and clean energy technologies, wind, solar PV, geothermal and energy storage, this scenario is “the most realistic path forward,” said Scott Mellon, assistant general manager at GWP.
“We believe that this scenario has the proper balance between reliability, sustainability and affordability,” Mellon said. “[Scenario 1] provides long-term viability and is adaptable to future innovations and changing energy technologies.”
Scenario 1 keeps natural gas resources available, but the use would be limited. Mellon also noted that GWP will continue to seek other ways to achieve the clean energy goal sooner than 2045.
Of the six scenarios discussed in drafting the IRP, in addition to Scenario 1, STAG members largely supported Scenario 4, which would achieve the Council’s 2035 goal by “aggressively [procuring] utility-scale geothermal, wind and solar while pursuing customer-sited resources.” Through this plan, natural gas generation would transition to green hydrogen in 2035, supplemented with long-duration storage.
“When I voted for the Clean Energy Resolution, it wasn’t just a feel-good aspirational thing,” Mayor Dan Brotman said. “To me, it was a statement that was very serious and it was a statement I expected GWP would take seriously and would understand that these are the marching orders we need to execute on.”
In their rejection of the IRP with Scenario 1, City Councilwoman Elen Asatryan, Brotman and Councilman Ardy Kassakhian requested GWP bring back a new IRP focusing instead on Scenario 4.
“I’m concerned about the ferocity of wildfires and fluctuations of climate change… As a parent who wants to pass something on to the next generation, I can’t sit here and pursue the status quo… If we are not setting an example and doing our best to set a tone, just as other cities have done, then I don’t see us holding true to the promises we’ve made ourselves,” Kassakhian said.
“[Scenario 1] does not match our local ordinance… It says staff is directed to develop a plan designed to achieve [the 2035 clean energy goal],” Asatryan said. “… Difficult times call for bold action and our Mother Earth is facing difficult times.”
A major reason GWP decided against recommending Scenario 4 is its reliance on hydrogen combustion, which Brandon Mauch, an energy consultant at Ascend Analytics, says will be a “challenge” for Glendale to obtain, as the city will need new infrastructure and hydrogen pipelines.
While SoCalGas is working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on fostering this shift to hydrogen, Mauch said the timing of this is uncertain.
Additionally, cost was another concern when deciding between Scenario 1 and 4. According to the GWP report provided to the Council, the total cost of Scenario 1 from 2024 to 2045 would be about $1.6 billion and Scenario 4 would be about $2.2 billion.
Mauch also highlighted that the Scenario 4 model plans for increased rooftop solar generation and energy efficiency adoption from Glendale customers.
“It has much higher trajectories on the customer side of resources compared to Scenario 1 [which] maintains the historically observed trends and extrapolates those out,” Mauch said.
Brotman pointed out that while the IRP plans for a city’s energy goals over the next two decades, it is adjusted every five years as new technology develops. He argued that if the city went with Scenario 4 now and if in 2027, the transition to hydrogen combustion does not seem feasible, they can change their next IRP accordingly, rather than abandoning the 2035 goal at present.
“Scenario 1 is just really not at the level of ambition we should be presenting to the public and to the world. It’s a business-as-usual approach,” Brotman said.
“We need to have a plan that respects the clear goals that Council set out in the Clean Energy Resolution and frankly, I’m shocked that GWP would bring us a plan that doesn’t do that and makes so little progress on distributed energy resources and has such high greenhouse gas emissions even past 2045,” he added.
In response to the idea of moving forward with Scenario 4 and adjusting that plan down the line if necessary, GWP General Manager Mark Young warned of possible consequences of pledging potentially unreachable goals to the California Energy Commission.
“When we talk about non-compliance and we put very aggressive goals [in our IRP]… if that resulted in us not having enough resources to meet our load, [the CEC] would investigate us and they would want to know why we were very aggressive and why we were unable to meet the load,” Young said.
Councilman Ara Najarian echoed this concern and warned that the state’s power grid could be affected if the city fell short of Scenario 4’s goal.
“Yes, I want to get 100% clean energy by 2035, but I’m not going to vote for something that has no resources that back it up,” Najarian said. “That’s a false statement and a false document that we’re going to be giving to the state … When my staff tells me we can’t do it and it’s unattainable, I’m not going to vote for it.”
Similarly, Councilwoman Paula Devine emphasized her commitment to clean energy, but ultimately decided to trust city staff’s recommendation of Scenario 1.
Throughout the public comment portion of this discussion, Scenario 4 received support from 13 community members at the Council meeting, while Scenario 1 received support from 4 speakers.
Kurt Sawitskas, who was a STAG member but noted he was speaking on his own behalf, supports Scenario 1. He discussed why he believes it is important to keep natural gas resources available for emergencies, adding that it is risky to adopt a greener scenario before the proper technology is available.
“Because Glendale is unfortunate enough to be constrained by transmission lines, it is imperative that we generate power within our own borders,” Sawitskas said. “Due to the further limitations of green generation opportunities within Glendale, thermal generation must remain an option of last resort to meet reliability and affordability.”
Another resident, who identified as Danielle Limon, spoke in favor of Scenario 4.
“Because of global emissions and warming, every tenth of a percentage matters and so, that additional 10% really matters,” Limon said. “In terms of the cost, we have to think of not only the cost in dollars, but also the cost to public health and the increase in natural disasters and all of the impacts of continuing to release more emissions.”
With the Council’s decision to request a new IRP draft from GWP, the city will have to request an extension from the CEC to meet its SB 350 requirement.
First published in the December 16 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.