Manhattan Beach Powerlines Stock Photo

Manhattan Beach will be switching to 100 percent renewable energy for city facilities in the coming month, thanks to a city council decision May 21. Local leaders decided to go forward with the uptick in the city's energy tier from 50 percent renewable power with electric provider Clean Power Alliance to help reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions to 44 percent. (Photo by Lisa Jacobs)

All Manhattan Beach city facilities will be powered by 100 percent green energy starting next month.

At a council meeting Tuesday night, local leaders voted to increase the city’s elected power tier with the Clean Power Alliance from 50 percent to 100 percent renewable energy.

“It’s not an understatement to say this would be the biggest environmental decision that has ever been made in the city,” said Environmental Sustainability Manager Dana Murray.

The move will cost between $70,000 to $90,000, according to Murray, but those funds will not come from an increase in tax dollars.

She said the cost will be balanced in the city’s budget and offset by energy efficiency projects such as LED light conversions in public spaces.

“General estimates is that by going up to 100 percent renewable energy, the costs are about 7 to 9 percent more,” Murray explained.

The CPA offers three tiers—36 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent—of renewable energy to customers from a mixture of solar, wind, small hydroelectric and other qualified sources, all of which regenerate in a short period of time according to the CPA website. The provider does not use coal or nuclear power.

City leaders made the decision to join the public agency among 31 communities including Redondo Beach, in December 2017. They originally elected to go with the 50 percent tier—a decision Murray says was somewhat rushed.

“I don’t think that last year, when I brought this to you in February...that I relayed the gravity of this,” Murray explained of the Feb. 20, 2018 council meeting when decision was originally made, adding city leaders were ‘in a hurry to make that decision.’

But, with budget talks currently under way, Murray said this was a perfect time to present the council with the idea, adding that one-third of the CPA’s cities are already operating at the 100% level.

Noting Manhattan Beach staff just finished a greenhouse gas emissions survey in April, Murray said the switch to 100 percent renewable energy has the potential to cut the city’s overall emissions by 44 percent—an increase from the 22 percent reduction if the city stayed at the 50 percent tier.

Making the switch to 100 percent renewable power, she added, also ensures Manhattan Beach is well ahead of the state goal per California SB 100, which is to have 100 percent of California’s electricity consumption come from zero-carbon, clean renewable energy electricity by 2045.

“If we were to opt up to 100 percent, we would be joining dozens of other cities in the state by adopting and meeting the state mandate policy early, especially given the news every day that we hear about the impacts of climate change,” Murray explained.

Most councilmembers and residents at the meeting supported the move.

“I am a climate scientist and I work with a team that models what the future looks like or could look like,” explained Juliette Hart, a member of the city’s Sustainability Task Force. “(If) we stay the course we are currently on (that)...gets us to a bad state of affairs. Or collectively in the city and at the global level, we work to reduce our emissions.”

Councilmember Nancy Hersman agreed, stating the issue was not only about the long-term viability of the city, but also the planet.

“What’s happening today is climate change,” Hersman said, adding she had received several emails from residents supporting a switch to 100 percent for city facilities. “I can’t see not doing it just because it costs money ... there’s a lot of things that cost money, but this one is incredibly important.”

City leaders also saw switching to 100 percent renewable energy as continuing Manhattan Beach’s legacy as a local leader in environmental legislation, noting recent bans on pollutants such as plastic bags, polystyrene, straws and balloons.

“We’ve been leaders on all this. This is not new to Manhattan Beach. We don’t follow everybody else,” Councilmember Richard Montgomery said. “This is a simple step that says I guarantee we can cut (the city’s green house gas emission) in half.”

But, Mayor Steve Napolitano said, while the move isn’t a ‘bad thing,’ it doesn’t help set the city up to be self-reliant for its future power needs.

He questioned whether the money would be better spent investing in the city’s own infrastructure.

“We don’t have our own real solar powered anything of any significance here,” the mayor said. “Why aren’t we investing in that? Because that will reduce not only our overall emissions in this city, it will help power it and it will reduce the cost over time as well...we need to end our reliance on all outside energy at some point...and to start doing that, we need to start investing in our own infrastructure and in our own power generating infrastructure, which we really haven’t done to any great extent whatsoever in this city.”

Councilmember Suzanne Hadley, who was the only No vote, said she “would rather not be leading all the way on this,” noting she was “good with 50 percent.”

Hadley likened spending the money on the switch to 100 percent power to saving for retirement.

“I see some of this environmental stuff as not unimportant—obviously it’s important ... but how much do we spend today?” Hadley asked.

The money, she continued, could be better delegated to rising pension and benefit costs, which she urged are more immediate.

“That is a train coming at us in the tunnel and we can see the headlights. That isn’t far out into the future,” Hadley said.

When asked about the flexibility of the city’s tier selection, City Manager Bruce Moe explained Manhattan Beach could switch to a different tier for municipal power at any point if there were cost dilemmas—knowledge which seemed to quell uncertainty on the council.

Councilmember Hildy Stern expressed she didn’t feel the decision would financially prevent the city from doing other important work in the future, such as establishing a solar power program.

“I don’t see this as us deciding things exclusively…(and) if we do this, won't do solar at some other point down the road. I think that we have to recognize ... this is a cost to repair,” Stern explained. “If our roof is leaking, we make that repair before we buy a new couch. Our Earth is leaking. We have to do this now and find a way to repair that.”

City hall’s switch will not affect residents

As for Manhattan Beach residents, they will remain on the 50% power tier defaulted when the city made its transition to CPA in February, according to city sources.

Manhattan Beach locals were notified via multiple mail notices before and after the switch and given the choice to opt for a lower or higher tier or to stay with Edison.

Power supply for non-residential, commercial customers in Manhattan Beach also began moving over this month, city staff said.

While the 50 percent renewable power tier was the default, environmental advocates at the May 21 meeting hope the city will send a message to the community by switching to the 100 percent green energy, encouraging residents, local businesses and other adjacent cities to do the same.

“This is really simple step that the city can do today that...leads all of the other cities in California, leads the nation and leads the world,” said climate scientist Hart.

For more information on the Clean Power Alliance, visit https://cleanpoweralliance.org/ and to learn more about Manhattan Beach’s switch to 100 percent clean, renewable energy visit https://www.citymb.info/departments/environmental-sustainability/clean-power-alliance

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