With the flip of a switch, Los Angeles officials yesterday inaugurated the nation’s largest rooftop solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program, enabling hundreds of building owners to create solar power plants on their rooftops and sell solar power to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for distribution on the city’s power grid.
All told, the program, originally proposed and supported by the Los Angeles Business Council and the CLEAN LA Solar Coalition, will generate 150 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable solar energy-enough energy to power over 43,000 typical homes and reduce 147 metric tons of CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to removing 28,300 cars off the road. Yesterday’s milestone marks an important step forward in completely transforming the city’s power supply, weaning LA from coal, and meeting the state-mandated renewable energy level of 33 percent by 2020.
Mayor Villaraigosa was joined by LADWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols, LA Business Council President Mary Leslie, Communities for a Better Environment President Bill Gallegos, Solar Provider Group’s Christian Wentzel, and a coalition of key stakeholders who supported the program, including the Sierra Club’s Evan Gillespie and Aura Vasquez, for the occasion. The speakers and supporters from the coalition counted down with enthusiasm as the Mayor flipped the switch, thereby “turning on” the nation’s largest rooftop solar program.
Mayor Villaraigosa was clearly pleased, as he was a tremendous champion of the rooftop solar program from its beginning stages and saw that it would successfully launch before he left office. “We took a major step forward in creating a clean energy future for Los Angeles by flipping the switch on the first installation to be completed through the LADWP Feed-in Tariff Program – the largest offered by any city in the nation,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “The FiT program takes advantage of LA’s abundant sunshine to spur new private sector investment that will create jobs and decrease our city’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels.”
LABC President Mary Leslie praised the Mayor’s leadership and the coalition that joined the LABC in advocating for the program. “The Mayor issued a challenge for public-private solutions to bring clean, solar energy to Los Angeles,” she said. “The FiT is an elegant solution because it is a simple contract that business understands and it creates new investment and jobs in L.A.”
The city’s Municipal Utility leader also championed the milestone on its economic and environmental merits. “A big advantage of local solar installations is that they generate clean, sustainable power right here in Los Angeles, avoiding the cost of building new transmission or taking up capacity on existing lines,” said LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols. “This also avoids the cost of energy losses that occur when transporting energy from several hundred miles away.”
Yesterday’s announcement also brought excellent news for the environmental justice community: it was revealed that more than half of the projects are in areas of the city with both the highest solar potential and the highest economic need. Bill Gallegos, CEO of Communities for a Better Environment, was in attendance and he underscored the opportunity this brings for all Angelenos. “We are concerned about the health and economic well-being of our community,” he said. “What excites us about this program is the new opportunity it brings to address long standing issues in the communities of LA with high economic need. We will see job creation, small and medium-sized business development, and cleaner air to breathe.”
The LADWP Feed-in Tariff program can serve is as a model for other utilities in the country. According to a UCLA study, commissioned by the LA Business Council Institute, in its first five years the program is projected to:
• Create 4,500 construction, installation, design engineering, maintenance and administration jobs right here in LA;
• Power 43,000 typical LA households while offsetting 147,200 metric tons of carbon emissions;
• Generate more than $500 million dollars in private investment and leverage $300 million in federal tax credits for LA Businesses;
• Place half of the installations into the areas of LA that have both the highest solar potential and the highest economic need, creating jobs right where we have people ready to work.
Yesterday truly marked a bright future for the clean energy future in Los Angeles.