HomeCity Government NewsCouncil Calls on Sacramento to Fund Renewables

Council Calls on Sacramento to Fund Renewables

Burbank City Council approved its Integrated Resource Plan this week in partnership with Burbank Water and Power. The move marked the first leg of a journey to achieve 100% renewable and zero-carbon resources by 2045, and one that city leaders warn may not be feasible without a surge in state funding.

The transition would see Burbank progressively wean off nonrenewable natural gas and coal resources entirely, while increasingly investing in solar, geothermal and hydrogen as its primary sources of energy, with possible investments being made in nuclear energy. Burbank will no longer rely on any coal resources by 2025.

The IRP, which was unanimously approved by the Council on Tuesday, is a long-term planning document designed to provide policy guidance for BWP’s electric supply to its customers over the next 20 years.

But the most significant concern for the utility has to do with state-mandated renewable energy goals, which, if ignored, could cost the city millions in fines, which would lead to huge rate increases.

BWP had to significantly rethink its cost and energy demand projections resulting from recent California energy legislation. Some examples include Senate Bill 350 and Senate Bill 100, which mandates energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements for local utility agencies such as BWP.

Those laws have established a landmark policy requiring that renewable energy and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of electric retail sales to energy consumers by 2045, and 60% by 2030.

To comply with state goals and face the climate crisis, BWP must embrace rising costs for renewable resources, and in lieu of state funding, this means that Burbankers can expect more rate increases as the utility prepares to transition further to zero-carbon resources and renewables.

BWP projected as much as 4%-5% in rate increases each year on top of the 16.5% increases approved in June. Rates will roughly double between 2030 and 2045, without factoring in inflation of the growth in resource costs.

“We are just embarking on studying these new technologies. No one thought that iron-flow batteries would ever come to the market, now we are going to pilot one. … These are all expensive technologies. There’s no cheap way around this, but we do plan to study it in detail,” said Mandip Samra, assistant general manager of power supply for BWP and the city staffer heading up the IRP.

“There is going to be an impact,” she added. “There’s no way around it. Costs are going up.”

Officials have cautioned that if BWP were to miss its state-mandated goals for renewables, state fines on the city would soar for ratepayers on the spot.

“If we don’t meet the state mandated 60% renewable energy targets by 2030 — which I will gently remind [everyone] is only six and a half years away — we risk fines of up to $147 million. That would be about an 82% rate increase, and we would also still have to meet the renewable requirements,” said BWP General Manager Dawn Lindell during a June 6 public hearing.

While the utility projected confidence in its ability to reach mandated goals on time, it has so far had to do so with little financial support from Sacramento.

Councilwoman Zizette Mullins expressed dissatisfaction with rising rates on behalf of residential and commercial ratepayers.

“The numbers that you just provided, they’re really scary,” Mullins told city staff during the Tuesday meeting. “There’s got to be some other options. I know we are not alone in this. Our neighboring cities are dealing with this too. We’re all feeling the pressure.”

Mullins added that it is essential to lobby the state to subsidize the cost of adopting new technologies, otherwise the burden will be placed on the public.

Samra responded to Mullins, pointing out that city staff are in routine contact with state lawmakers regarding the issue.

“We are talking with legislators and highlighting these issues because we are aware of the detrimental rate impacts. We are not alone, but we happen to be the most vocal,” said Samra. “We are meeting with the right people, and we hope we get heard.”

Councilwoman Nikki Perez hoped to rephrase the conversation around the relationship between steep sustainability goals and rising rates for ratepayers.

“I personally am of the mind that the goals that we have are not the problem,” said Perez. “This is affecting our future generations. This is the Earth that our kids are going to have to live in — and it’s not a good one — so we have to speed it up. The pressure is going to be very good for us. The problem is unfunded mandates. … Let’s urge our legislators. We are ready to meet those goals, give us the money to do that.”


Burbank’s energy goals line up with the international community’s plans to phase out fossil fuels as a means of energy production in favor of natural resources.

The idea is to electrify industries like transportation, cement production, steel production, chemicals manufacturing, heating and appliances, while decarbonizing the supply of electricity. This means changes will be happening simultaneously on both the supply and demand sides of the energy economy.

Decarbonizing the energy economy will require a monumental renovation to the nation’s power grid, transforming it from the days of fossil fuels to the likes of hydroelectric, solar, wind, nuclear and natural gas energy production, which will all require new infrastructure.

These changes will need to occur on the residential level as well, to equip homes with hardware such as electric vehicle charging, batteries, solar and inverters to feed excess power back to the grid, increasing efficiency.

The cost of these changes nationwide will be astronomical, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which estimated a national expense of $150 billion annually. Some experts say the transition could cost up to $5 trillion in total.

BWP is only just beginning to study how it could feasibly make such drastic changes to the grid while accommodating state requirements with only a slow drip of state and federal funding.

Part of that transition to sustainable energy means facilitating infrastructure investments for electric vehicle charging. Electric vehicles are taking over the automobile market, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they could make up half of all vehicle sales by 2030.

As residents lean into this shift and make the widespread swap to EVs, one question is clear: Is the city equipped to manage the energy grid requirements?

Recent social media posts have highlighted the challenge residents face when trying to access EV charging ports. The posts have captured the long lines at Burbank’s public EV charging stations and noted there is often more than an hour wait just to begin a charging session.

The city recently partnered with Tesla to build the stations and required grid changes, and according to the IRP report, the utility is pursuing the installation of more BWP-owned EV chargers in high-density residential areas and in public parking lots.

Burbank currently has 93 EV charging ports at 22 sites with plans to install an additional 116 ports by 2032. During the same period, BWP also anticipates providing rebates for the installation of another 779 privately-owned charging ports.

According to the report, BWP can benefit from transportation electrification by incentivizing EV charging in lower-cost hours when energy usage is typically low or mitigating the effects of rooftop solar generation by managing EV demand during the day.

“BWP plans to and has implemented electrification grid integration strategies that work best for its ratepayers,” the utility said in a statement.

BWP staff noted that a complete overhaul will be costly.

The issue reflects the greater concerns of the City Council that without state funding, the cost of these monumental changes falls on ratepayers. The same funding shortfalls are happening on a national scale, and experts warn that if commercial electrification, grid modernization and the transition to natural resource energy supply do not ramp up quickly, climate disaster will be inevitable in California.

First published in the December 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]