Drive the freeways, ride the train from San Diego to Union Station, or fly into LAX and you cannot miss the obvious - Los Angeles has tremendous, untapped potential for solar growth. Now a new report from Michelle Kinman at the Environment California Research & Policy Center, seeks to layout the case for Solar in the Southland: The Benefits of Achieving 20 Percent Local Solar Power in Los Angeles by 2020. Here’s our take.
It is beyond dispute that there is a huge gap between the amount of solar that could be supported in the Southland versus the amount that is actually, presently installed. As Ms.Kinman’s report makes clear, even in the City of Los Angeles alone, that gap is enormous, as illustrated by this graph:
Citing a study by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, Kinman reports that the rooftops just in LA alone could support some 5,500 MW of solar power - of which a paltry 68 MW is installed today. That is a lot of potential. But Kinman’s report doesn’t focus on adding all of that - rather she has documented dramatic benefits that would follow from just reaching the goal of 1,200 MW by 2020.
In addition to supporting some 32,000 job-years of employment (thank you!), Kinman shows that installing that much solar would also have these benefits:
Kinman insists that this is an achievable goal, but one that would take “clear, strong and consistent direction and support” from the Mayor and the City Council to LADWP. Some specific policy prescriptions include:
If we have one criticism of the report it is that it fails to identify funding sources - other than anticipated savings - to spur this growth. For example, providing additional incentives for residential solar or expanding the FiT will come with a price tag. Who is going to put up that money? At a time when solar is under attack from investor-owned utilities for unduly shifting costs onto non-solar customers, the report misses an opportunity by failing to outline a mechanism to pay for its important goals.
Still, the report provides valuable documentation of the as yet unrealized benefits of tapping into LA’s solar potential; and in that it makes an important contribution to the ongoing policy debate.
We just came across this great video (h/t VoteSolar) and we just had to share. While this is about the struggle over net-metering in Arizona, you could readily insert the name of the utility of your choice - PG&E immediately comes to mind - and it would apply with just as much force. Check this out:
The line about the utility being a shark is pretty good, too!
No entity did more to bring about LA’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program than the Los Angeles Business Council. Now they have released a cool video (h/t KB Racking) that highlights the program and speaks eloquently as to it future potential.
Here’s the video:
We are heading toward the opening of the Second Tranche of the FiT program where a total of 20MW of production capacity will be available (4MW set aside for “small” projects between 30 and 150 kW) at a base price for energy of $0.16/kWh.
There is a fairly lengthy application process so folks who are interested in submitting for the Second Tranche are encouraged to contact us now.
SB 43 - the Community Solar bill authored by Democratic State Senator Lois Wolk - passed its first legislative hurdle yesterday but in doing so it highlighted potential trouble down the road.
The bill passed the Committee on a 6-4 vote but the combination of who voted Nay does not bode well. Here’s the chart of how they voted:
First observation - the profile in courage award to Committee Vice Chair Jean Fuller for not voting on the bill at all.
Senator Wright’s district encompasses some decidedly working class neighborhoods in cities such as Compton, Hawthorne, Inglewood, San Pedro, Watts and Wilmington. We reached Senator Wright this morning in his Sacramento office - he answered his own phone! - and he was very direct in his comments. He called the measure a “stupid bill” and said he opposed it because of its cost-shifting to other rate payers and that its mandatory purchase and subscription provisions made the bill something he could not support.
We told him about potential clients that we see - like the Glendale woman we met yesterday who so very much wanted to add solar but simply had no viable space to do so - who could really benefit from such a bill. Interestingly, he cited programs like Glendale’s “Green Energy” rate by which GWP customers could purchase “green energy” by paying a surcharge to GWP. We say interestingly because presumably the renewable resources that GWP is using to satisfy that requirement have the same potential issues as those provided by a Community Solar provider - for example, the dispatchability of a resource is not dependent upon who owns the resource.
Our conversation touched on a number of subjects - the Senator was very generous with his time - and we came away with the sense that the while he is quite thoughtful on these issues, he will most likely not be an ally in the struggle to preserve net metering as we know it.
Senator Padilla’s office, on the other hand, did not answer when we called. We will update this post if we hear back from him.
There are two competing memes traversing the world of distributed energy generation - the “net metering is unfair” meme (only heard from utilities and their lackeys) and the “utilities are dinosaurs” meme (originally only touted by pro-renewable evangelists like, well, yours truly).
Far too early to see which meme will win out in the end, but the dinosaurs meme just got a major boost from an unlikely source - Walmart.
Hat tip to our friends over at Climate Crocks for flagging the story about Walmart putting real teeth into its previously stated commitment to generate 100% of its energy from renewable sources. According to Walmart CEO Mike Duke:
More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful… The math adds up pretty quickly — when we use less energy, that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment.
The math adds up pretty quickly for the utilities as well. Given the size of Walmart’s operations - more than 10,000 stores in more than 20 countries - this is a big deal. Indeed, Walmart is promising to increases its renewable energy production six-fold over the remainder of this decade - and it already produces enough renewable energy in the U.S. to power 78,000 homes!
No doubt the utilities will decry Walmart’s commitment as “unfair." But when they do, their bellowing is likely to be heard as the dying sound of the last dinosaur, slipping into the swamp of a business model that has no future.