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Community comment: Are L.A.'s new feed-in tariffs the right incentives for solar?
On January 11, the L.A. Times reported that the city’s municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, launched a new program allowing companies with rooftop solar power plants or relatively small-scale commercial solar installations to sell their excess power back to the utility. From the Times:
Described as the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation, the so-called feed-in-tariff program would pay customers 17 cents per kilowatt hour for energy produced on their own equipment. The DWP has already accepted more than a dozen applicants and will be taking dozens more as it accepts contracts for up to 100 megawatts of solar power through 2016.
This is separate from the state’s net-metering provisions, under which utilities agree to buy back power from small residential rooftop systems. Feed-in tariff payments are generally higher in order to strongly incentivize commercial or larger-scale rooftop development. The systems covered by the L.A. feed-in tariff must be between 30kW and 999 kW. It is thus aimed at systems on apartment buildings, warehouses, schools and parking lots.
The program has budget to buy up to 100 MW of power initially, then the California Energy Commission decides in March whether the program should be expanded by another 50 MW. The project has also floated that it would create 4500 jobs and $500 million in economic activity, which are very ambitious numbers.
How will this spur the development of clean energy in Los Angeles, a city in some desperate need of a clean-up? Is this the right way to go to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard goals? This is not cheap: Can we afford it? What was the experience of other cities such as Gainesville, FL, which put an FiT in place in 2009?
Give us your comments here.
Photo: Solar array owned by Recurrent Energy at the Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California. This is not in Los Angeles County, but it is a 200kW system that would be the right size for the FiT. And, it's pretty. Photo by Dean Kuipers.