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LADWP Solar Program Clears Hurdle

[Update: This story has been updated and corrected. See below note for explanation.]

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has avoided an obstacle in its implementation of its much-lauded new plan to buy solar from mid-sized solar power producers in the city. The Los Angeles City Council decided Tuesday not to send DWP's 100-megawatt feed-in tariff program to a Council committee for review and possible veto.

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Under DWP's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program, the utility would sign agreements with owners of moderate-sized solar panel arrays to buy photovoltaic power from them at a price of up to 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar arrays would need to be at least 30 kilowatts or larger to qualify for the program, placing the feed-in tariff well out of reach of most Los Angeles property owners.

Tuesday's Council action came in response to a motion by Ninth District Council member Jan Perry, who referred to charges by city Ratepayer Advocate Fred Pickel that the prices offered for the first 20-megawatt tranche of power purchase agreements under the FiT were too high. That motion stated, in part;

In her motion, Perry asked the Council to "assert jurisdiction" over DWP's approval of the FiT program and send it to committee for further review. Asserting jurisdiction essentially means that the Council would review the DWP's decision, and could have vetoed it with a two-thirds majority within 21 days.

But when the motion was presented Tuesday, according to the L.A. Business Council's Adam Jacobson, public testimony swayed the City Council to allow DWP to carry out the program as planned. Council member Perry essentially withdrew her motion, and a vote to formally "file" her motion as inactive passed with only one dissenting vote.

The DWP's Brooks Baker told ReWire that the FiT will be launching on schedule despite the averted delay, with applications being accepted starting February 1.

In the meantime, the eyes of the solar world are on the Los Angeles FiT, with some offshore observers seemingly shaking their heads at how we do things here. The German site Renewables International is rather blunt in its assessment:

Though the DWP program is the largest Feed-in Tariff in the U.S., Renewables International points out that at least one other program has it beat by proportion:

[Update: This article has been corrected. A previous version of the article misinterpreted the Council's vote and incorrectly claimed that the FiT program had been sent to committee. The error stemmed from my misunderstanding of Council records. I apologize for the error.]

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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