Los Angeles Can Do More on Renewables

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With passage of California’s 33% renewable energy law (RPS) in 2011, the state’s publicly owned utilities were obligated to meet the same renewable requirements at the major investor-owned utilities (PG&E, SCE and SDG&E) for the first time. That’s no small step forward for renewables in the state! Together the state’s 10 largest publicly owned utilities deliver approximately one-quarter of all the state’s electricity needs.

Our friends over at the Union of Concerned Scientists released a new report this week that ranks those 10 publicly owned utilities on their clean energy progress, and we’re not entirely surprised to see that the biggest — Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — did not earn top marks.

LADWP falls in the middle of the pack on clean energy, below the likes of Silicon Valley Power and Modesto Irrigation District but above others like Burbank Water and Power. UCS notes that while LADWP achieved 20% renewables in 2010, nearly one third of that clean power came from short-term contracts of five years or less, which don’t provide the investment certainty needed to finance and build new clean power plants. Add to that LADWP’s lackluster record on solar: less than one half of one percent of Angelenos’ power mix comes from solar, and LA has far less rooftop solar per capita than the two other biggest utilities in the state, PG&E and Southern California Edison.

In a city as eco-loving and sunny as LA, so much more clean energy leadership is possible! And Angelenos think so too. LADWP and LA City leaders have made new strides on solar recently, restarting the Solar Incentive Program for self-generation and launching a feed-in tariff program for up to 150 megawatts of wholesale projects. Just today, the utility announced it had no less than 26 applications in its first request for feed-in tariff proposals, and plans to sign the first round of contracts by November.

We’d like to see City leaders keep building on that momentum and get up to speed with the rest of this increasingly solar-powered state. It’s time for LA to break its dirty coal dependence and boost the local economy by investing in lots of new rooftop solar. There’s nothing like bringing home a report card marked “Most Improved!”

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.