Officials Push for L.A. to Get 20 Percent of Power from Rooftop Solar

Generating rooftop power under the June gloom atop the Metro Support Services Center | Photo: Metro Library and Archive/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The push to make Los Angeles more energy independent is gaining steam, as a group of local, state, and federal elected officials called Friday for California's largest city to meet a fifth of its peak power needs with local solar within six years.

Congressman Adam Schiff, State Senators Kevin de León and Ted Lieu, Assemblymembers Bonnie Lowenthal, Jimmy Gomez and Mike Gatto, and L.A. City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin have signed on to support a rooftop solar goal L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti adopted last year, when he said he'd push for building 1,200 megawatts of solar capacity on Los Angels' roofs and parking lots. That's a bit less than a fifth of the city's usual summer peak consumption, about 6,100-6,200 megawatts.

Now, with last week's announcement that the city's public utility will be hiring a new general manager at the end of the month, those officials and a broad spectrum of other solar advocates are pushing to take advantage of the opportunity to put the L.A. Department of Water and Power solidly behind Garcetti's goal.

"It's time for Los Angeles to take its place in the sun as a world leader on solar power, and it can only happen with strong leadership from Mayor Garcetti and the next general manager of LADWP," said Emily Kirkland of Environment California, a backer of Garcetti's initiative.

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Outgoing LADWP general manager Ron Nichols and Mayor Garcetti announced January 9 that Nichols would be leaving at the end of the month for what Nichols described as "personal reasons." The utility has been embroiled in a number of fiscal scandals over a big-ridden billing system and alleged suspect payments from the utility's treasury to two non-profit trusts.

A new general manager could make the 20 percent local solar goal a priority for the utility. Garcetti will be selecting Nichols' successor.

The push is gaining support from city circles well outside the usual political suspects and mainstream green groups. Aside from unsurprising endorsements by long-term environmental activists like Environment California, Vote Solar, and the Sierra Club, as well as solar leasing companies, the push for 1,200 megawatts of local solar in L.A. has won support from a diverse array of L.A. institutions ranging from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to a Bunker Hill-area pupusa joint.

Aside from reducing the city's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by more than a million tons a year, building 1,200 megawatts of local solar could employ 32,000 people for a year, according to Environment California.

"Southern California is practically a synonym for sunshine. But here in Los Angeles, we're still getting less than 2 percent of our power from the sun," said Kirkland. "Mayor Garcetti showed tremendous vision in calling for 20 percent local solar power by 2020 last January. Now, it's time for him to make that promise a reality."

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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