On March 3, Angelenos will be asked to vote on Measure B, a ballot measure that would enable the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to develop 400 MW of solar on land and rooftops within the city. The Los Angeles Times asked us for an assessment, which you can read here.
The short version is that there are both benefits and drawbacks to utility-owned solar generation, and the drawbacks can be significantly ameliorated by a commitment to keeping all solar markets open. That means supporting and growing a local installer industry–at a minimum, we’d like to see LADWP promise they won’t try, for the second time, to raid the California rebate program that’s intended to help customers go solar on their own.
If you agree, no need to be a Hamlet–you can take action here.
A couple more details that didn’t make it into the LA Times story due to space constraints. The bill referenced in the story that would have allowed LADWP to use SB1 funds for wholesale power is AB 2269. The letter we wrote to the Governor asking for his veto can be found here (pdf). And here’s the Governor’s veto statement (pdf).
A little more on the desireability of growing a solar industry outside of a utility payroll. Arizona was one of the first states to institute a renewable portfolio standard–in their case it was called the Environmental Portfolio Standard, and unsurprisingly the requirement was heavy on solar energy. In its implementation of the requirement, Tucson Electric Power decided to keep everything in-house, and used the appropriated ratepayer funds to build a large photovoltaic installation to pump groundwater at the Springerville coal-fired power plant. Their installed costs were remarkably low–something like $5.15/W, if memory serves–but after the plant was built and the requirements were met, that was it. No more solar. Anyone else in Tucson that wanted to go solar couldn’t take advantage of the solar expertise gained–TEP kept it all in house, and, well, they didn’t want to do any more solar. Momentum ground to a halt. So, it was back to the regulatory drawingboard, and the next version of the state’s renewable requirement contained specific provisions for growing a local solar industry. Now, according to a new report out of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Tracking the Sun (pdf), the AZ solar industry has one of the lowest average installed-costs in the country. This year is the first year of full implementation, and with ~$100 million in available incentive funds for solar, we expect great things.