The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipal utility in the U.S., is reportedly ready to reintroduce a solar incentive program (SIP) it abruptly dropped in April,ostensibly to address issues like lack of funding, a backlog of morethan 500 applications, some safety concerns, and possiblemisrepresentations by solar installers.
The suspension, effective April 8th, was programmed to run a minimum of 90 days, oruntil issues were resolved, allowing the municipal utility to review its protocols and revise the program as, and if, needed. Previously, inNovember of 2010, the agency reduced its rebates in what it described as an effort to sustain the program’s financial base.
After a review and a June 28th public comment meeting, the agency announced it is stepping back into the solar incentive ring. It plans another public comment session and workshop on July 14th thatwill cover both the SIP and Feed-in Tariff (FiT) solar programs.
LADWP’s solar incentive program will reportedly double the amount of fundingfor the next three years, thus reflecting payout rates similar to thosefor the California Solar Initiative (funded through three California public utilities: Pacific Gas &Electric, or PG&E, Southern California Edison or SCE, and San DiegoGas & Electric, or SDG&E.
This doubling, from $30 million to $60 million, is a result ofrevenue from LADWP bond sales, and – though less than rebates paid bysome California municipal utilities, will still be higher than those paid by Southern California Edison (SCE). According to one report, SCE pays $1.50 per watt (in another it’s quoted as $1.55 per watt) during the current Step 5 (dropping to $1.10 watt in Step 6).
Revised SIP procedures include having contractors apply for a permitfor the solar installation before submitting the paperwork for a rebate. The LADWP also promises an expedited inspection procedure to speed theinterval before net metering commences.
The agency’s FiT program, aligned with the state of California’s SB32 legislation passed in 2009, was originally designed to foster theinstallation of 75 megawatts of distributed renewable solar energy fromsolar projects in the 1.5 to 3 megawatt size.
Such installations would provide electricity which the utility couldpurchase under a power purchase agreement, or PPA. They would alsoprovide the installer with federal tax credits, either in the form of a30-percent tax rebate or a cash grant. This applies to any solarfacility placed in service before Dec. 31, 2016.
The LADWP plans a public workshop on July 14th to get input on boththe SIP and FiT programs, which must be submitted to the agency’s boardfor approval. After an expected review of both in August, the LADWPhopes to restart its SIP program in November. The utility originally published a restart date of July 1, 2011.