Power to the People


Under Gurcharan Bawa, Pasadena Water and Power has made great strides in beginning to shift Pasadena away from a reliance on outdated, dirty energy, but there is a lot you can do to help.

By Daniel Tozier

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash

It’s easy to take a light switch for granted. A single, quick motion and light pours over a child’s homework or fills a kitchen as you sneak in for a midnight snack. It’s a small, everyday miracle we hardly think twice about. But for the team of 440 full-time Pasadena Department of Water and Power employees, it’s all they think about, as day in and day out, they make sure our city is fully powered, everything from the equipment at Huntington Hospital to the cell phone charging by your bed. 57,000 homes and 8,000 businesses across Pasadena fall under the PWP team, led by its general manager, Gurcharan Bawa. Though he’s accomplished much since taking the helm, what his time at the PWP might be most remembered for is his aggressive push into renewable energy.

A combination of solar, wind, geothermal, landfill gas and hydro-power has allowed Pasadena to shift away from outdated and polluting energy sources like coal. Currently, our city is meeting and far exceeding state energy standards. Bawa’s aggressive energy goals has been at the heart of his time at the PWP. After taking over, he committed to having 40 percent of Pasadena’s energy generated by renewable sources by the years 2020. They hit 32 percent in 2016. Not satisfied with the incredible progress, Bawa pushed his department even further, upping the percentage to 50 percent by 2030.

If you want to join the fight and help Pasadena reach their goal, there are a few steps you can take and you won’t have to go at it alone. The PWP has several programs set up to help you help the planet.

Nestled in the Montezuma Hills, between Sacramento and San Francisco, is one of the biggest wind farms in California. Power is sourced all the way to Pasadena as one of the city’s main sources of renewable energy. By signing up for the Green Power Option you’ll notice a couple bucks added to your electricity bill every month, but it will insure that a portion of your electricity comes from this wind farm. And if you’re really committed, you can add 2.5 cents to every kilowatt-hour and your entire house will be powered by renewable wind energy.

California’s seemingly endless days of clear skies make our homes perfect for solar panels. Although city incentives for solar installations ended in 2018, the PWP is still able to help guide you through the process of installing solar panels of your own. And there are other ways to make solar an affordable choice. Besides the savings on your energy bill, there are still the federal tax credits for up to 30 percent of your total cost. And if you ever pull in more electricity than you use in a month, the PWP will actually buy the extra electricity from you.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

With water-related energy use taking around 20 percent of the state’s electricity, saving water means saving electricity. Since the drought hit California, you may have noticed your neighbors pulling out their emerald green lawns and replacing them with red mulch, succulents and other various desert plants. These drought-resistant species require less water to thrive and are far better suited for the California climate. If you’ve been looking to make the change, the PWP is here to help. Besides offering thirty cents per square foot of lawn you pull out, they’ll give you free mulch to replace it with and they’ll send someone to complete a free landscape survey.

Besides the technical and financial assistance, the PWP website also offers an array of beautiful landscape designs ready to be applied to your property.

If you’re not keen on the desert look, installing a greywater system can take some of the burden of irrigating your lawn off the city. Affordable and simple to maintain, these pump systems take used water from washing machines, filter it and redistribute it to plants and trees around your house. All with no permit needed. The PWP is currently offering $80 towards parts for your greywater unit, maintenance training classes and installation assistance. You can keep your lawn green and still be doing your part to help our city get through the drought.

When the PWP was founded in 1906, its purpose was to construct a power plant that would power the city streetlights for less than what Edison was charging. Today it does so much more. Bawa and his team are setting an example, showing other cities that renewable energies are worth fighting for. If we take on the challenge to help the PWP reach their goals, then the city we pass on to future generations will be as great a place to live for them as it was for us.


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