Sell Us Your Solar Power, LA Tells Citizens

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a feed-in tariff that could see residents and businesses contributing up to 150 megawatts (MW) of solar energy to the city.

Under the terms of the program, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will buy solar power generated locally by rooftop solar panels.

LA solar FIT

image via Shutterstock

The Solar Feed-in Tariff (FIT) [PDF] will offer an initial 10 MW of solar in its pilot phase, and later LADWP will roll out a program with a minimum of 75 MW and rising to 150 MW.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has signed an ordinance initiating the program, which would allow Angelenos to take advantage of one their most underutilized resources.

“It’s time we start using one of Los Angeles’ most abundant resources – sunshine,” said Mayor Villaraigosa in a statement. “This ordinance will allow Los Angeles to become the largest city in the nation to implement a feed-in tariff system. We are starting small, testing the market, and making sure we have the best, most cost-effective system for the future.”

FITs are programs devised to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies. They achieve this by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology. Such programs have driven a high proportion of renewable energy deployed around the world and many of the solar photovoltaics installed across the globe were paid for with FIT programs.

A recent program approved by city authorities in Palo Alto last month will see locals contributing over 6,000 MW of renewables each year, enough to power 1,000 homes, under a FIT done through the CLEAN program.

For the LA pilot program, projects will be selected based on competitive bids, determining a set contract price per kilowatt-hour for up to 20 years.

The mayor’s adoption of the FIT has won support from business and environmental advocacy groups.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.

  • http://twitter.com/croselund Christian Roselund

     Dear Mr. Willis,

    They call it a feed-in tariff. But it isn’t a feed-in tariff, not as the
    term is used everywhere except by con artists working for U.S. utility
    companies and people in our government who want to look like they have done something more impressive than what they have actually accomplished.

    Feed-in tariffs pay set rates for renewable energy generation, using must-take standard contracts.

    This is a competitive solicitation program, a bidding process. That is not the same thing. 
    Competitive solicitations do not have the record of dramatically
    increasing renewable energy generation the way that true feed-in tariffs
    do.

    Palo Alto and Gainesville, Florida, passed actual feed-in tariffs.

    I recommend that you speak to renewable energy policy experts such as
    Paul Gipe of Wind-Works who can set you straight on policy and correct
    terminology.

    Christian Roselund