On November 2, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) announced it would make cuts to solar rebates available through its solar incentive program. Now, it seems, homeowners, businesses and industry participants are pushing back, saying that the proposed cuts would hamper growth in solar powerprojects just at the time when L.A.’s residential solar market wasstarted to take off.
Don’t worry, Los Angeles — you’re not alone. You’re simplyexperiencing what has become a classic progression for state and localgovernments angling to create green jobs and stimulate demand forrenewable energy, like solar. Here’s the gist:
Step 1: Create a solar rebate program. In line with the California Solar Initiative, LADWP has been offering a per-watt rebate for residential solar energysystems of $3.24. Compared to the rebates currently on offer fromCalifornia’s investor-owned utilities, like PG&E and SCE, this is an incredible deal — one that can significantly reduce the cost ofinstalling a solar energy system.
Step 2: Fund the solar rebate program. The LosAngeles solar rebate program was originally funded in 2000 with $150million. It was re-upped in 2007 to have a 10-year budget of $313million. For 2010, LADWP had budgeted $30 million in incentives.
Step 3: Watch the solar rebates go like hotcakes. It turns out homeowners and business are chomping at the bit to go solar.And, why wouldn’t they be? Armed with a decent upfront incentive, alongwith a 30-percent tax federal tax credit, individuals who install solarpanels can significantly lower their electric bill, reap a strong rate of return, add real value to their property and, toboot, shrink their carbon footprint. LADWP has received 1,500applications for rebates that have yet to be paid out.
Step 4: Backtrack. By reducing reducing the per-watt rebate available, program administrators can husband funds and ensurewith greater likelihood that rebates will be available for a largernumber of applicants. On paper, this makes perfect sense. But inreality, such an un-telegraphed move can cause headaches for both solarbuyers and solar installers.
This last step is the course of action decided by the LADWP’s boardon November 2. It is also a step that in recent years has been taken —or considered — in New York (by Long Island Power Authority), Arizona(by Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service and Tucson ElectricPower) and New Jersey.
The moral of the story? If you’ve ever considered installing a solarhome energy system — in Los Angeles or beyond — it’s likely in your best interest to get started on your project sooner rather than later.There’s no telling how long solar rebates will be available.
Margot Roosevelt of L.A. Times’ Greenspace Blog has more on the on-going solar rebate debate.