News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

L.A. City Council Member Wants Fairer Solar Incentives

Councilwoman Jan Perry with L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa in October | Photo: courtesy Councilwoman Jan Perry

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been developing its own version of one of the most successful solar incentives known -- the feed-in tariff, which pays solar power generators a fair market rate for all the power they produce. It's an important step by DWP, though the utility has drawn some criticism -- including from us here at ReWire -- for setting its sights too small.

Now, a member of the Los Angeles City Council has raised the stakes, calling for DWP to expand its feed-in tariff program to include smaller solar installations -- in other words, to include people like you and me.

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In a formal motion made December 14, Ninth District Council representative and Mayoral hopeful Jan Perry urged the Los Angeles City Council to request DWP to develop "a Solar Feed-in- Tariff (FiT) Program that is fair and equitable for both small/local solar providers and large commercial solar providers; and maintains fair and equitable power rates for the ratepayers."

The motion was seconded by First District councilman and President Pro Tem Ed Reyes. The Council is now in recess; the motion will likely be discussed after the holidays. The motion reads, in part,

The Department of Water and Power is in the process of formulating a FiT Program that seeks to encourage the development of solar installations in the City as well as in the region. The proposed FiT Program seeks to engage in significant power purchase with solar providers with the goal of developing large solar installations in the perimeter of the Los Angeles Region; and smaller installations in the City.

The proposed FiT Program is a positive step in that it will help foster significant solar power development in the City. However, it appears targeted towards larger solar providers. It is important that the Program be devised in a manner that is fair and equitable and allows smaller/local solar businesses to participate on equal footing with large commercial renewable energy developers.

Perry's district, running from the Pico-Union area to the heart of South Central L.A., stands to benefit greatly from a robust feed-in tariff. There are a lot of roofs in the Ninth District that could be covered with solar panels, a lot of property owners who could use a bit of income from selling solar power, and a whole lot of people who'd like to find jobs installing that solar. So it's not surprising that this isn't Perry's first foray into the world of feed-in tariffs: the combination of cleaner energy and the possibility of democratic economic development have had such incentives on her radar for some time.

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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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