LA Utility Lagging In Solar Race, Report Says

The biggest city in sunny Southern California appears to be falling short in turning its most abundant resource into power. A recent study by a research team from UCLA and the University of Southern California finds that Los Angeles lags behind other California cities in solar jobs and the amount of solar power capacity per capita. According to the study, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) generates less than one-sixth as much solar power per customer as state leader Southern California Edison, and has one of the weakest solar track records among major California utilities.

Further, the results show that those areas of Los Angeles which stand to gain the most from expanded solar energy development also have the most economic need. But despite the 2,200 workers that receive training in solar panel installation, design and sales at the region’s many workforce training programs, many of them cannot find work in this field. These findings complement those reported by the Solar Foundation’s 2011 Solar Jobs Census, which found that solar employers preferred to hire workers with field experience.

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Although LADWP recently revived its solar incentive program, the report urges California officials to take the Million Solar Roofs Initiative one step further, by adopting a feed-in tariff for solar power. The adoption of a feed-in tariff has also been endorsed by a coalition of environmental groups, labor leaders, business organizations and other stakeholders. The report, “Empowering LA’s Solar Workforce: New Policies that Deliver Investments and Jobs,” was presented by the LABC Institute, an affiliate of the LA Business Council, and is available for download from the institute [PDF].

“These figures tell us that LADWP has not been as successful as other local utilities either in bringing solar to market or in its efficiency in doing so,” said UCLA’s J.R. DeShazo. “Looking forward, policy makers can take note of past performance as they weigh the proper steps moving ahead.”

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).