News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Rooftop Solar a New Focus of L.A. Mayor's Race

Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti wants to generate 1,200 megawatts of power from Los Angeles rooftops | Photo: eric Garcetti/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Usually when aspiring politicians talk about sunshine, it's a metaphor having to do with opening up public records or cleaning houses. But Los Angeles Mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti is talking about literal sunshine: He's making rooftop solar a focal point of his campaign for Los Angeles' Mayor, saying that if elected he'll bring 1.2 gigawatts of rooftop solar to Los Angeles.

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By way of comparison, 1.2 gigawatts would be enough to fill about a quarter of the city's demand on a typical day.

Garcetti, a Democrat currently representing the city's 13th Council District and son of former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, says it "just makes sense" to expand the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's 100-megawatt feed-in Tariff program -- already the country's largest -- by a factor of 12. "It makes environmental and economic sense for the DWP to power the city with clean energy generated right here in L.A. instead of importing fossil fuel electricity from out of state," Garcetti said today in a press release. "If they can do 1,200 megawatts in Ontario, Canada, we can do it here in L.A. This will create thousands of jobs and help reach my goal of making DWP coal and nuclear free."

Garcetti's no newcomer to environmental activism: he's authored landmark water conservation bills during his tenure on the Council and appeared in the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? His advocacy of a greatly expanded feed-in tariff program for DWP can be seen as a move to outflank his fellow council member Jan Perry -- one of Garcetti's 13 rivals for the Mayor's seat. Last week Perry failed in an attempt to send DWP's 100-megawatt feed-in tariff program back for additional review; she's since spoken out on the matter in a somewhat defensive manner.

Perry, though a strong candidate, likely isn't Garcetti's main competition in the race -- at least when it comes to fundraising success. The conventional wisdom has it that Garcetti's strongest rival is City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has raised about $3 million to Garcetti's $3.5 million or so. Greuel has also earned the endorsements of a whole lot of environmental activists, including Evan Gillespie -- one of the Sierra Club activists who helped push DWP to launch its 100-megawatt feed-in tariff program.

The mayoral primary is March 5, at which point we'll see which of the 14 contenders will face off in the general election. If the campaign raises the visibility of rooftop solar as a bread-and-butter economic issue as well as an environmental issue, that's a win no matter who takes the oath of office.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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