Utility plan is unveiled

CITY HALL — A draft five-year plan to cut electric rates 35%, boost local water production and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the city’s utility got a preliminary stamp of approval Monday from the Glendale Water & Power Commission.

Officials unveiled the plan as Glendale Water & Power faces a barrage of challenges ahead, including likely cuts to its annual state water allotments and imposing state regulations aimed at bringing power plants into line with 1990 pollution levels.

Key in meeting that mandate would be reduced consumption, said Glendale Water & Power General Manager Glenn Steiger. Part of the plan calls for a 7% reduction in power usage by 2014.

“That’s a lofty goal,” he said. “It’s a difficult goal, but we have to do it.”

Much of the plan focuses on cutting costs in an effort to reduce the impact of high utility rates to customers who are feeling the pinch of a harsh recession.

The amount of money Glendale Water & Power had to write off due to default customer accounts jumped nearly 61% to $219,324 in the first half of the fiscal year, according to a report released in January.

The plan also calls for an increased presence in Sacramento as lawmakers, emboldened by President Obama’s more liberal approach to the environment, work to rein in California’s carbon footprints through the energy sector.

“This becomes a larger and larger operation every year,” Steiger said of the additional regulations.

Saying he was “profoundly impressed” with the broad set of goals, Commissioner John Miller looked forward to reviewing the programs that would get the utility to the draft benchmarks.

Among the dozens of goals included in the plan — which took officials about seven months to craft after receiving input from community and business groups and more than half of Glendale Water & Power’s roughly 400 employees — are achieving $10 million in increased profits on the open power market, reducing outages, increasing water efficiency, stabilizing the outgoing annual money transfers to the city’s general fund and renegotiating “over market” fuel prices.

Officials would also report back to the commission on a quarterly basis with progress updates and review the entire plan annually for adjustments.

After the plan’s unveiling, the commission repeatedly referred to the challenges born of what members said were steep goals that bordered on the “amazing.”

Asked how the utility planned to meet the 35% rate reduction goal by 2014, Steiger said it would be a result of “pretty significant cost-cutting on our part.”

The more costs fall, the more rates could be reduced for the consumer, he added.

Glendale Water & Power has among the highest utility rates for similarly sized cities in Southern California.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some beef out of it and it will carry through,” Commissioner Hugh Yao said.

The draft strategic plan still must go to the City Council for final approval, probably in March, officials said.

 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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