Solar LA

Los Angeles is at a critical energy crossroads. The choice facing Los Angeles consists of staying on a path of dirty, unsustainable and dangerous energy resources or shifting to a clean energy path that exploits the abundant, renewable and reliable energy resources available today.

Los Angeles currently relies heavily on fossil fuels and nuclear power subjecting residents to long-term instability from price spikes, market manipulation and supply shortages. In 2005, 75 percent of the city’s energy came from burning fossil fuels: 50 percent from coal and 31 percent from natural gas. Renewable energy accounted for five percent of DWP’s total electric generation which is significantly lower than the state average of 12 percent.

Much progress has been made over the past few years. Los Angeles now has a goal of increasing renewable energy to 20 percent by 2010, and renewable energy has doubled in the past three years.  These developments should be applauded. However, most of the renewable energy developed by LADWP under its new renewable energy program is large scale projects like wind farms, geothermal fields and biogas facilities. The amount of solar power installed in Los Angeles is among the lowest in the state despite the city’s unparalleled amount of sunshine.

There’s no question, the city of Los Angeles has the potential to be the world’s capitol for solar power. With its year-round sunshine, growing energy needs and an enormous number of rooftops just perfect for solar panels, Los Angeles could easily generate at least five percent of its energy needs from solar power within the next decade. And, accounting for 10 percent of the state’s entire electricity usage, Los Angeles can play a leadership role in realizing California’s goal of building a million solar roofs in 10 years. 

Furthermore, LADWP’s rate structure creates financial barriers for individuals wanting to go solar. For example, DWP limits excess solar electricity generated during a weekday afternoon to offset net demand only during other weekday afternoons, as opposed to allowing afternoon-generated electricity to offset energy usage at night-time. In contrast, the rest of California allows customers to use their solar credits to offset any and all net demand within an annual timeframe. In other words, usually net metering allows a solar system owner to essentially use the grid as a giant battery, storing solar power by day for use by night. LADWP’s net metering program, in contrast, only allows solar system owners to “store” solar energy during the day which is, of course, the time of day storage is not needed.

Both of these issues need to be addressed if Los Angeles is to comply with the spirit of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative and, more importantly, if it is to become a world-wide solar power leader. The opportunity is to make Los Angeles a world-class solar city, bringing significant environmental, public health and economic benefits. Building 100,000 solar roofs in Los Angeles over the next ten years would:

Result in 300 MW of solar power installed in Los Angeles;
Cut global warming pollution by roughly 300,000 tons per year
Reduce smog forming pollution by 90,000 pounds per year
Create 2,100 new jobs


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