Frank Talk on Solar Energy, Why I Asked the City Council to Analize the DWP's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) Proposal

The Department of Water and Power (DWP) Board voted earlier this month in support of moving forward with an ambitious Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program. While I am supportive of this program, I believe we need to ensure that the numbers make sense.

I was briefed by our Ratepayer Advocate, Dr. Pickel, and learned that he had advised against moving forward with the program as it is currently planned. In fact, he received only one day to review this major initiative. We had a City Charter change, creating a Ratepayer Advocate to ensure greater transparency at DWP, and it is incumbent on us to provide him with a hearing and listen to what he has to say before moving forward with a program -- that, while worthwhile -- may need greater examination.

With this in mind, I asked that the City Council assert jurisdiction over the DWP Board's decision, hoping to give the public and the Council the information provided by our Ratepayer Advocate. I was disappointed to learn that my colleagues felt this action to be an affront to our solar energy goals and would not support moving forward with such a discussion.

Let's be clear -- solar energy makes sense for Los Angeles. I have long been a proponent of moving our city forward when it comes to developing an inclusive solar incentive program that makes economic sense, which will support the development of local jobs in this emerging industry, and will enhance our efforts to green our power system.

Solar will come if we have the right price, and I am not sure if that right price is 17 cents per kilowatt hour, as the Board has approved, or an average of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Right now, the average DWP household has an income of $50,000. We need to consider the price and how it will affect our ratepayers.

As part of this initiative, I have been very supportive of the development of a FiT (Feed in Tariff) program here in our city. In fact, I was the one who introduced the motion to develop a FiT pilot program that allows for a buyback of surplus energy by the DWP. I am proud of how far we have come as a city in planning for an expansion of the program.

I believe the City of Los Angeles can be the leader in solar energy and technology; we have the people, the brain trust and the climate here to make this happen. A comprehensive FiT program has the potential to help us meet SB 1332, state renewable energy goals, and spur and support our local economy by creating local jobs for solar installation and solar technology.

As we move forward and make every effort to support a solar program in Los Angeles, we must be cognizant of how it affects our ratepayer's bottom line and balance that with our need to green our city.

I have asked the DWP to work with our Ratepayer Advocate to better communicate these initiatives to the community at large and give our Ratepayer Advocate sufficient time to give us valuable feedback on major DWP proposals. In order to be successful, we need everyone's support and confidence in what will be an important step forward for our city. Establishing energy policies that create real opportunities for those who need them most and help us meet our ambitious renewable energy goals will move Los Angeles forward in a positive way.

I will continue to ask the tough questions. Through transparency and discussion, we can continue to improve our renewable energy programs and make Los Angeles work for everyone.