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One vote remains before electric bills rise in Los Angeles; committee sends DWP rate hike forward

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A vote next week is all that stands between Angelenos and higher electricity rates. An LA City Council committee unanimously approved a Department of Water and Power plan to raise rates, sending the issue to the full council next week.  

DWP officials told council members that legal requirements drive about 70 percent of utility’s appetite for higher rates. Those mandates include sometimes-contested pledges for renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency, retrofits related to once-through cooling, and costs associated with the solar "feed-in tariff."

But members of the city council’s energy and environment committee seemed comforted that an independent ratepayer advocate, Fred Pickel, supports the utility’s choices as a responsible departure from past action.

"As you look at DWP rates and say, gee, why are they low? I think part of the reason is rates have been held down too long and we’re underinvested in some areas that will affect reliability," Pickel told the committee. 

Still, the DWP took care to explain how it has tried to minimize the effects of new rates on low income and senior households. The utility’s chief financial officer, Phil Lieber, emphasized that Angelenos exposed to more extreme hot and cold temperatures in the San Fernando Valley would not pay a penalty for living there.

"And we have looked at that closely," he said. "We have structured it so that valley customers are not going to be disproportionately impacted by this increase."

The rate hike requires the full LA City Council’s approval to take effect. DWP and city officials anticipate that Angelenos could see higher bills as soon as November 2nd