Los Angeles Mayor Signs Solar Energy Program Into Law

Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a new law that will reimburse homeowners and companies who install solar energy in their residences and offices, propelling his city to the forefront of the competitive solar industry and establishing Los Angeles as a leader in solar energy programs. Solar panels not only power homes, they also generate electricity that residents will be able to sell to the city at upmarket rates if they generate more than is needed to power their residence or business. The law establishes a feed-in tariff program, a program that allows for increased investment of renewable energy by providing investors an affordable return on their investments.

The city of Los Angeles plans to launch an initial demonstration program that will power 3,400 homes with ten megawatts of energy; its goal is to ultimately provide 150 megawatts of energy to power 490,000 homes by 2016. The program will be run by the Los Angeles District of Water and Power (LADWP), which will buy surplus energy generated from solar panels in homes and offices from Los Angeles residents. Los Angeles is the largest city in the nation to adopt a feed-in tariff program.

By encouraging residents to adopt solar energy, the new law will cut out 2.25 million tons of carbon emissions produced from current dirty forms of energy, such as coal. Los Angeles’s notorious blanket of smog, produced mostly by vehicle emissions and coal plants, is a constant threat to the health and safety of its residents and children, many of whom suffer from asthma. Carbon pollution contributes to respiratory diseases like asthma and bronchitis, and can lead to more serious effects such as cancer.

“Instead of sending hard-earned LADWP customer payments out of the state to buy more dirty coal, we’re hiring Los Angeles workers and using the famed Los Angeles sun to help Los Angeles businesses produce clean, affordable solar power for Angelenos across the city,” Sierra Club Los Angeles campaign representative Evan Gillespie told Power Engineering magazine.

In addition to generating clean energy for Californians and decreasing the risk of respiratory issues, the program will create up to 4,500 jobs and contribute $500 million to the economy. The initial 10 megawatts of solar energy used in the demonstration program will be developed and sold to the LADWP by third-party contractors that is currently undetermined.

According to local Los Angeles news source The Daily Breeze, Villaraigosa said, “Make no mistake that this [law] will continue after I’m gone.” The mayor noted that the law is important because “I remember when I was a kid and we weren’t allowed to leave the classroom because the air was so dirty.”

In his term as mayor, Villaraigosa has set a goal for 30 percent of the city’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. The feed-in tariff program he has established in Los Angeles aims to increase the use of renewable energy; increase the amount of green space in the city; build a modern, efficient transport system; foster green economic growth; and encourage water conservation and recycling.

The city of Los Angeles will hold three workshops this month for residents and contractors interested in learning about the program. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, but would like your city to adopt a similar program, sign this petition at ForceChange.com. The petition commends Los Angeles’s plan and encourages other mayors in the state to follow the city’s lead (although the petition urges Mayor Villaraigosa to sign the plan into law—which he has already done—you can still sign it to show your support and send it to mayors in other cities).  

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/tintedglasssky/101925624

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