Burbank residents weigh in on city’s future energy needs

The coal-fired Intermountain Power Plant seen on March 28, 2016, in Utah. Burbank currently receives 31% of its electricity needs from the coal-driven facility. In a series of town hall meetings, Burbank Water and Power has learned residents want it to draw on renewable sources.
(George Frey / Getty Images)

Burbank residents made it clear this week to Burbank Water and Power staff that they would like to see the city-owned utility make use of renewable sources.

More than 30 people participated in a town hall meeting hosted by Burbank Water and Power at the Buena Vista Branch Library Monday night, when staff from the city-owned utility gathered input and suggestions from the public regarding the future of the city’s energy sources.

Burbank Water and Power is currently in the process of drafting a long-term plan that would help guide the city and utility toward energy sources residents would like them to use in the foreseeable future. This was the second forum the utility held at the library, with the first one occurring on Saturday.

Several people in attendance at Monday’s meeting told Lincoln Bleveans, assistant general manager of power supply for the utility, that the city should move away from receiving energy from coal-fired facilities.

Burbank currently receives about 31% of its electricity needs from the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah, the largest facility of its kind in that state. The city has received power from this source since the mid-1980s, Bleveans said.

That power plant will be ceasing its coal-driven operations in 2025 and converting to a natural gas-fired facility. It has been losing customers because cities from Southern California are barred by California Senate Bill 1368 from buying or renewing long-term contracts from facilities that create too much pollution, Bleveans said.

Some residents were concerned about a possible 50-year contract with the Intermountain plant, which they said was too long a deal.

Bleveans countered their concerns, calling the large transmission line running from Intermountain Power Plant to Southern California a “crown jewel” that is a renewable-energy super-highway. “The only way to maintain our rights for that is to keep our seat at the table,” he said.

Resident Jack Panossian, a member of Burbank’s Community Development Goal Committee, said he is more interested in finding ways to retain energy created by Burbank Water and Power’s own natural gas-fired plant or received from external sources, such as the Intermountain Power Plant or the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona.

Bleveans said there is no shortage of power in Burbank, and in many cases Burbank Water and Power will sell off energy that isn’t needed by the city.

He added that the technology to store energy in private homes or businesses is available, but the systems are still too expensive and not efficient enough to use on a citywide scale.

Thought it is still far off, Panossian said the utility should start looking into and investing in energy storage technology so Burbank can be at the forefront of renewable energy.

“It’s not just about sustaining where and how the energy is coming and going, I want to sustain the communities, the people,” Panossian said.

For those who could not make it to either of the town hall meetings, Burbank Water and Power has an online survey on its website,, where residents can give their two cents on what the city’s energy future should look like. The survey will be available through the end of August.

Once the online surveys are complete, Bleveans said he and his staff will use the information to develop a long-term plan. He is aiming to have a report finished by November to be reviewed by the Burbank Water and Power Board.

If approved by the utility, it is expected go to the City Council for consideration sometime in December.

Twitter: @acocarpio