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Are You Listening, LA City Council? »
After two hours of a sometimes feisty debate, the LA City Council today voted 12-1 to move forward with DWP’s recently approved 100 MW Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program. The need for all this drama arose with Councilmember Jan Perry who voiced concerns over the cost of the program, echoing the complaint of the Ratepayer Advocate (RPA), Dr. Pickel. The Council’s vote cleared away the last obstacle to a FiT roll-out, most likely sometime in February. As promised, we attended and spoke at the Council meeting (for all of 60 seconds); here is our report.
Although Perry is widely seen as a supporter of solar in general and the FiT in particular, rumor among City Hall insiders was that today’ motion was an attempt by Mayoral candidate Perry to inoculate herself against campaign charges that she was ignoring the concerns of the RPA, even though those concerns were based on a host of faulty assumptions. (Curiously, Perry’s other Councilmember opponent in the Mayoral contest - Eric Garcetti - was absent from today’s debate, but he did manage to vote.)
Given that motion of this type - under Section 245 in the City Charter - require a 2/3 vote of the total membership, Perry walked in the door needing at least 10 of the 13 Councilmembers who attended to vote for the motion.
Any hearing in LA City Hall comes complete with a colorful array of gadflies and this meeting was no different - the most startling being the guy wearing a cone hat, made from a very large dog head cone, that included a plastic pink flamingo entwined in the cone’s cords. (The Councilmembers, who often appear completely disinterested in much of the proceedings, acted as if his appearance were a daily occurrence, which it undoubtedly is.)
While City Hall rules allow for up to six minutes for a member of the public to speak on an issue, in general the rule is two minutes. Today - as was the case the last time I spoke to the Council - the rule was one minute. Not a lot of time to give to people who are taking hours away from running their business to speak, but so it goes.
A substantial number of groups spoke in favor of moving the FiT forward without further delay: Homeboy Industries (Thaddeus Skiles), Kyocera (which has been about the only solar manufacturer consistently showing up for FiT hearings), the Clean LA Solar Coalition, Communities for a Better Environment (my old organization, represented by Bahram Fazeli), the Sierra Club, various City residents and the LA Chamber of Commerce.
Not much by way of opposition - again the gadfly types who seem to oppose everything (and who all seemed to agree that this was a “power grab", get it?) and a guy named Jack Humphreville representing an entity called the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council who termed the entire FiT program a “pet project” of the DWP.
It has been often said that there are two things the weak of stomach should avoid observing - the making of sausage and legislation. Today was a painful lesson as to the latter. (Do you really need one for the former?) A number of Councilmembers demonstrated both an understanding of the issues and a powerful commitment to the benefits of rooftop solar in the LA basin, particularly Councilmembers Krekorian and Koretz. Paul Koretz sounded as if he had read our last post prior to the meeting (and maybe he had) as he quoted from President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address and noted that we are years behind in implementing solar. “LA is famous for its smog,” he said, “It is time that it became famous for its solar!”
Not to be outdone, Paul Krekorian noted that the FiT was both good energy policy and good economic policy. While small businesses in LA could not really participate in lots of other renewable energy projects - geothermal out in the desert, wind in Northern California, etc. - they can install in-Basin solar. He concluded, “Some city in America will be the solar capital of America for the next century; I believe it should be Los Angeles and the way we make it into Los Angeles is by starting now.”
The writing on the wall, Jan Perry defended her motion against charges that it was politically motivated. Nevertheless, Perry agreed to modify it to allow her 245 motion to be “Noted and Filed” meaning that she would be on record as having brought this motion, even though no actual vote on the merits would be held. The Council went along, and the vote for Perry’s 245 motion to be Noted and Filed was approved 12-1. (Two odd points based on the official vote tally - Garcetti apparently entered the chambers during the debate (I did not see him) and voted for the Note and File. The other oddity is that the official tally shows Perry voting Yes on the Note & File (i.e., against her own motion) and the only No vote was from Parks. Very odd indeed.) Thus the tempest ended, not with a bang, but a whimper.
So now the stage is set for the FiT to actually get underway! Once again it needs to be said that DWP General Manager Ron Nichols demonstrated himself to be very quick on his feet and quite possibly the smartest guy in the room. His calm but firm push back on the RPA’s nonsense - without ever expressly calling it nonsense - was very helpful today.
Of equal importance were all of the folks who took the time to send emails or make phone calls to Councilmembers. Together we helped convince the Council of the overwhelming popular support for this program - which helped to overcome the faux populism expressed by the RPA. Put most simply - we would not have carried the day without you.
Contact us today so that we can get started and make sure you can get an application on file to secure a place in the first 20 MW tranche which offers the Base Price of Energy of 17¢/kWh.