Climate in LA / Local Carbon Monsters

This page is about how LA’s electric utility (LA Power) is upgrading its energy sourcing, infrastructure, and technology – under pressure of the atmosphere heating up and ruining everything.

1. LA’s Electricity from Coal and Gas

1.1 Half of LA’s electricity comes from carbon-fired power plants.

1.2 LA will close (and open) gas-fired power plants.

2. Really? Can’t LA just stop burning things?

An LA citizen: Aura Vasquez, Los Angeles City Councilor, 2012 – 2020. Vasquez was an influential supporter of climate policy during her time at the City. Vasquez helped bring about LA’s Green New Deal.

Electric utility aka: People and businesses within Los Angeles city limits buy their electricity from the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power, acronymed LADWP, but here referred to as LA Power.

1. LA’s Electricity from Coal and Gas

In Los Angeles, people’s electric service comes from the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LA Power). LA Power’s newest coal-fired power plants have been spewing carbon smoke since the 1980s and still have several decades of scheduled operation. LA Power’s carbon plan (see Climate in LA – City Leaders) mandates that all of LA Power’s carbon-fired power plants be shut down by 2045.

1.1 Before 2030, LA Power will extinguish 3 of 10 of its gas-fired power plants, but they’ll also ignite a monster-sized new one.

This is LA's Harbor Power Plant burning methane gas to make electricity.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

β€œThis is the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles.” – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

While LA Power is starting up its huge new Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant, it will shut-down of 3 of 10 of its smaller, local gas-fired power plants.

Scattergood Gas-Fired Power Plant will be TURNED OFF in 2024

Haynes and Harbor Gas-Fired Power Plants won’t be TURNED OFF until 2029

Added up together, the carbon these three facilities spew is about 172 million pounds each day. The electricity they make, enough to power 375,000 homes / up to 1.3 million people, will be replaced by the big new solar farms sprouting up outside LA. Mayor Garcetti announced the plant closures in February 2019.

Photo: Harbor Gas-Fired Power Plant

Bernadette Del Chiaro

β€œThis [scheduled closure of 3 gas-fire power plants] is nothing short of historic. Today’s advanced solar and energy storage technologies can do an even better job of powering our lives.” – Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Storage Association, February 12, 2019

Mel Levine

“LADWP’s local generation and transmission system has served the City well for over a century, but it’s time to reimagine and reconfigure it so that … we can transition away from reliance on natural gas as quickly as possible.” – Mel Levine, LA Power Board President, February 12, 2019

City Govt Press Release: City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office. Feb 19, 2019

Photos: Mel Levine – Terry Ashe, Getty Images; Angela Johnson Meszaros – Ana Mascarena

1.2 LA’s biggest power plant burns mountains of coal every day. Soon, its replacement will burn a sea of gas – for the next 25 years.

Photo of a worker in a hardhat standing on a platform high above the desert pointing at a colossal smokestack spewing heat-gasses high into the atmosphere.

In 2020, LA Power is making 49 percent of its electricity from power plants that burn coal and gas. LA’s biggest single source of electricity is its Intermountain Coal-Fired Power Plant, a ginormous (1,800 megawatts) electricity-maker way out (650 miles away) in the middle of Utah. Coal is the dirtiest source of carbon – when burned, it releases more carbon into the atmosphere than any other fuel.

Intermountain Coal-Fired Power Plant will be TURNED OFF in 2025.

LA Power plans to turn off its Intermountain Coal-Fired Power Plant in 2025, having recently replaced it with the newly-built Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant, scheduled to switch on in 2023 and continue to burn gas and spewing carbon, 24/7 all the way until 2045 – when it is no longer legal to do so. California law mandates that by 2045, 100% of the state’s electricity be made only from carbon-free, climate-neutral sources – not coal or gas. The City of Los Angeles has adopted the same 2045 mandate.

Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant will be SWITCHED ON (!) in 2023 and won’t be TURNED OFF until 2045.

An aerial view of the Intermountain Coal-Fired Power Plant, with hot carbon smoke blasting out of its 700 foot tall smokestack.

For 2045 and beyond, LA Power says it wants to convert the Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant to become the Intermountain Hydrogen-Fired Power Plant. Hydrogen burns clean, without making climate-heating smoke. But like coal and gas, hydrogen-fired electricity is not climate neutral. The manufacture of hydrogen gas requires, ironically, the combustion of large amounts of gas.

Note that 2045 is within the time range (between 2043 and 2053) when researchers say LA’s Mediterranean climate will have completely, permanently changed over to some new, much different climate. See Climate in LA – Forecast.

The new Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant will be LA’s Biggest Climate-Heater:

Generating Capacity: 1,200 Megawatts (twice as much as a typical large coal-fired power plant). Batteries: None. This plant’s colossus methane gas burners must run at high capacity, 24/7.

Electricity enough for 850,000 homes / up to 3,200,000 million people) Carbon Spew: 870,000 tons each year / 2,384 tons each day

Location: Delta, Utah, 650 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Energy Technology: Thermal Combustion; Owner: Intermountain Power Agency. Operator: City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LA Power); Electric Utilities: LA Power and several LA County municipalities. Power Contract: from 2023 to 2045.

Market Report: Intermountain Power to shut Utah coal plant in 2025 by Kelly Andrejasich S & P Global Market Intelligence, May 24, 2017.

Industry News: Natural gas plant replacing Los Angeles coal power to be 100% hydrogen by 2045: LADWP by Catherine Morehouse, Utility Dive, 12/12/2019.

Local Newspaper: Los Angeles to close 3 power plants in aggressive move toward green energy by Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register, February 12, 2019

Local Newspaper: Los Angeles is finally ditching coal β€” and replacing it with another polluting fuel by Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times. July 19, 2019

Interesting: Intermountain’s smokestack is 700 feet tall. Regulations require utility-size facilities to keep smoke away from the ground, where people live. So the smoke gets blown higher in the atmosphere, where it can be more quickly carried away… to the whole rest of the atmosphere. Photo: Steve Griffin, Salt Lake Tribune

2. Really? Moving forward, can’t LA just decide to stop burning things?

[These Qs are for LA people who want LA Power to make a faster transition away from fire-generated electricity and it’s tremendous carbon spew.]

1) About the shutdowns of 3 out of 10 of LA’s in-town gas-fired power plants: What about the other 7? What are the ways LA Power can fast-track the closure of these big carbon-spewers?

2) Is burning more gas really “the beginning of the end of natural gas in Los Angeles,” as Mayor Garcetti says? While the 3 out of 10 local gas-fired power plants are being shut down (between 2024 and 2029), LA Power’s new, monster-size, gas-fired power plant out at Intermountain, Utah is about to start up (in 2025). It will burn much more gas than the combined three closed plants.

The Mayor did say “an end to gas in Los Angeles” not “for Los Angeles.” Garcetti is not counting the big new Intermountain Gas-Fired Power Plant outside LA, because its way out in Utah. But the colossal Utah gas plant does spew megatons of carbon into everyone’s atmosphere, on behalf of all Los Angelinos.

3) Indeed, burning hydrogen may be climate-neutral, but making hydrogen gas itself requires the combustion of methane gas and damage to the climate. Going forward, can the City rethink LA Power’s dream of a hydrogen-fired power plant? Is it really necessary to keep torching things to make electricity? How can LA Power’s citizen-owners and board of directors fast-track more large-scale solar electricity (including in-city, big-roof solar farms)?

Angela Johnson Meszaros

“These power plant closures are an important milestone, but a lot remains to be done.” – Angela Johnson Meszaros, Earthjustice LA

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