In Focus: Solar in Los Angeles

Everyone knows that the Los Angeles Basis is blessed with a near year-round abundance of sunshine. Everyone also knows that LA is a power-hungry region demanding between 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts peak power depending on the season (and anticipated to increase to 6,500 megawatts by 2020). Given that, the marriage of solar power to meet LA’s needs should be a no-brainer. So what’s the hold-up? Why are we so far behind?

A new joint study out from UCLA and USC titled “Empowering LA’s Solar Workforce” places the blame on a failure of policy leadership:

Unless civic leaders ramp up efforts to expand solar programs, the city and region face the prospect of being left behind, as other municipalities and other regions move forward on solar power and clean energy programs. In fact, while a recent study showed that one-quarter of all solar energy jobs in the nation are in California, there is a very real risk of those jobs (and others yet to be created) fleeing to other places. This report is, above all, a wake-up call to policymakers to make certain they are utilizing an important workforce segment – and creating policies that will put qualified people to work. In Los Angeles, the policy mandate is clear: the LA DWP must move forward swiftly on a comprehensive FiT [Feed-in Tariff] program.

By any measure, the region’s utilities are just not getting the job done.  This table shows the status of statewide solar program targets and progress toward completion for the seven utilities in the area:

solar la progress med In Focus: Solar in Los Angeles

SCE and our own Pasadena Water & Power lead the way at 20% and 16% of SB1’s targets being achieved, with the rest falling far behind.  But given its enormous size compared to all of the other munis, LADWP’s failure to lead at only 6% achieved is beyond disappointing.

Clearly the failing here is not for a lack of available human resources.  The report correctly notes that Los Angeles has a substantial population of workers who have been trained – thanks to innovative programs from organizations like Homeboy Industries, LA IBEW11/NECA and community colleges – but not fully employed in the solar industry due to a lack of proper policies to spur the growth of local solar installations.  While LADWP has focused on utility scale installations in remote areas, it has lagged behind on installations that could be done right now in communities all across the city.  A greatly expanded FiT would allow solar developers to match up high solar potential project areas with high employment need areas.

Here’s another way to gauge progress – how much solar power per customer has each utility installed?  Again, LADWP is lagging far behind:

solar per customer small In Focus: Solar in Los Angeles

Again, SCE leads the way with 119 Watts per customer installed.  PWP is in the middle of the pack at 36.8 whereas LADWP has less than half that much (and not even a sixth of SCE’s total) at a measly 18.25 Watts per customer.

Faced with such dismal statistics, this is no time for short-sighted measures, but the timid, 6 MW demonstration program being presently contemplated by LADWP is far too meager to make a dent in this need.  To the contrary, the report argues that a 600 MW FiT program should be implemented over the next ten years.  According to the report, such a FiT must: “1) have a fixed price; 2) offer the program to participants on a first come, first serve basis; 3) have a simple application process; and 4) incur minimal administrative costs.”  Such a program would create good-paying local jobs and help the region meet its energy needs while protecting the environment.

We couldn’t agree more.

Original Article on Founder’s Blog