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LA’s Groundbreaking FiT Program Shines with Energy into the Next Phase

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In a report issued today by the Director of UCLA's Luskin Center for Innovation, J.R. DeShazo, LA's ambitious rooftop solar program is delivering the much promised results they had hoped to see. According to PRNewswire, LAs' groundbreaking new rooftop solar energy program is working well on its promise to bring cost-effective, clean power to tens of thousands of LADWP customers, and the program is already on target for a significant expansion that would bring even greater benefits to the public.

As part of the FiT (feed-in-tariff) program, electric power produced by solar rooftop installations on commercial buildings, warehouses and apartment complexes, is sold to back to the LADWP for use by its residential and other business customers.

Using extensive interviews with primary stakeholders, including participating property owners and solar developers, the UCLA researcher team evaluated the program’s initial two phases. These two phases, representing about 40 megawatts (MW) of solar power, received a total of 256 program applications. Based on the successful rollout, the UCLA’s team concluded that the "FiT 100" is right on target to deliver 100 MW of carbon-free energy by 2015 – That’s enough to power more than 21,000 homes annually in the LA area.

More importantly the program, which also included job creation and economic initiatives, as well as outlined sustainability goals, is also on track to deliver on its promise. In addition to the clear environmental advantages this program brings with it, the installation of the first 40 megawatts will help generate 862 jobs, and the full 100 MW program is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs – 1,370 direct jobs plus 785 more indirectly related to the program, according to this study. The FiT 100 is also expected to deliver approximately $300 million in direct investment in the City of Los Angeles by solar companies and other businesses involved in the program. Additionally, the cost of power under this LA’s FiT program – averaging 15 cents per kilowatt-hour – is lower than any other similar FiT program in North America.

UCLA research team estimates that once the full FiT 100 program is in place, as many as 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases could be displaced from the environment every year. "Imagine taking away the emissions from about half a million cars annually. That's what this solar program is on track to deliver by replacing dirty, coal-fired power with clean, renewable solar power," said Evan Gillespie, Western Region Deputy Director of the Sierra Club.

"Rooftops of office buildings, warehouses and apartments within the Los Angeles basin are proving to be outstanding sites for solar power plants. With about 10,000 acres of rooftops in Los Angeles, we think the sky is the limit for the solar FiT program”, stated Brad Cox, Chairman of the LABC Institute. "The UCLA findings on the FiT program's launch provide the hard economic and environmental data that city officials need to justify expanding the program," said L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz. "We have the potential to scale this program like no other city in America, and the environmental and economic benefits will be impressive in their size and scope for decades to come."

Long a champion of the benefits that the solar FiT program could bring to diverse communities throughout the Los Angeles region, the CLEAN LA Solar Coalition and the Los Angeles Business Council were please at the findings released yesterday. The UCLA analysis confirms that applications received for the first two waves of the program encompassed each of L.A.'s 15 City Council districts, the largest number coming from the sun-rich San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles. The FiT program is seen by many as a geographic complement to the LADWP's existing solar programs, whose participants are largely on LA's west side."Every community should benefit from this rooftop solar program, and so far it's clear that effective rooftop solar can create opportunities in every part of the city," said Manuel Pastor, Director of USC's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity.

While acknowledging the strong rollout of the FiT in 2013, the UCLA team also identified a variety of ways to improve on several aspects of the program, especially as it scales to 100 MW and then to 600 MW. They recommended that to incentivize small projects, LADWP should consider differentiating the tariff paid to small and large project categories, potentially helping to improve the financial viability of small projects. According to the report, another solution may be to increase the size range for small projects.

The study also recommends possible improvement in a number of other areas as the program expands including anticipating costs to connect the new solar arrays to the electrical grid to help solar companies and business owners feel more secure, and the creation of clearer guidelines and a resources by the city's Building & Safety Department should be made available, and resources to help make the permit process more streamlined and efficient. The UCLA study also suggests that the LADWP extend its FiT contracts from 20 to 25 years. Doing so will help the utility secure renewable energy for a longer time period, and assist solar developers in improving financing terms.

Adding to the UCLA team’s recommendations is that plotting a course to strengthen communications around creating greater public awareness of the program would greatly help incentivize more building owners to make their rooftops available for solar projects. "Los Angeles is quietly building the model, commercially-scalable rooftop solar program in the country, yet very few building owners know about it," said Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council. "The solar firms did a good job of approaching building owners in the first two phases, but we think it's critical for the city to build greater awareness so more building owners can evaluate if this solar program is a good fit. The more they know about it, the faster the program can grow and meet its full potential."

In addition to the UCLA study, LABC has requested that the USC Program for Environmental & Regional Equity evaluate how the FiT program can maximize its economic impact locally, especially on hiring and investment in low-income communities. The USC study is currently scheduled to be released at the 2014 LABC Sustainability Summit in April.

You can get more information about the LADWP Feed-in Tariff Program at: www.ladwp.com/fit.

For more information about the Los Angeles Business Council and the CLEAN LA Coalition that worked to bring this program together, please visit www.cleanlasolar.org.

SOURCE Los Angeles Business Council Institute

RELATED LINKS
https://www.ladwp.com
http://www.cleanlasolar.org

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