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Luskin Center Report: Tapping LA’s Vast Rooftop Solar Potential Could Reap Huge Benefits For City’s Most Disadvantaged Communities

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A significantly expanded commercial rooftop solar program in Los Angeles would create thousands of new jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, with particular benefit to residents living in traditionally underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, according to a joint UCLA/USC study conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Business Council Institute.

The report, Sharing Solar’s Promise: Harnessing LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity, calls for the LADWP’s current feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, also known as CLEAN LA Solar, to be expanded from 100 to 600 megawatts, and to include incentives for solar developers and property owners to focus much of that growth in low-income communities where solar potential is among the most promising in the city. Incentives should also be provided to companies hiring disadvantaged workers for the installation of the solar systems, according to the report.

The CLEAN LA Solar program allows local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate. The report finds that expanding the program to 600 megawatts will help Los Angeles achieve a state mandate to generate a third of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have concluded that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, enough to support a FIT far larger than the 600 megawatt program recommended in the study released today from the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. And according to the report, over 40 percent of the current CLEAN LA Solar project applications are located in Los Angeles’ solar equity “hot spots,” or neighborhoods with abundant rooftop space for solar installations and also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. Areas identified as “hot spots” include the San Fernando Valley, Downtown Los Angeles and the region surrounding the Port of Los Angeles.

“It’s very encouraging to see that FIT applications are rolling in from across the city, particularly low-income neighborhoods where the environmental and economic benefits are so important,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC PERE and one of the report’s authors. “Significant growth of the CLEAN LA Solar program is absolutely achievable, which is why we were so encouraged by Mayor Garcetti’s expression of support in his budget message for expanding in-basin solar generation to 600 megawatts,” he added.

“The CLEAN LA Solar FIT program is paving the way to secure our city’s future as a statewide and national leader in solar production, helping our environment and economy alike,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I applaud this program’s successful efforts to direct our abundant supply of sunshine to support local business and workforce development while reducing our carbon footprint.”

The program is already reaping benefits for workforce provider groups targeting disadvantaged workers across the Los Angeles region, including Homeboy Industries’ Solar Installation Training and Certification Program, the L.A. Conservation Corps’ Green Job Training Program and Empower America’s training program for veterans with Solar Provider Group.

The Sharing Solar’s Promise report also identifies areas of potential improvement to the LADWP program, and makes several recommendations designed to ensure that Los Angeles’ diverse workforce is an equal participant in and beneficiary of the FIT. Scaling the program from its current 100-megawatt capacity to 600 megawatts would add stability to the program and increase its potential environmental and economic benefits, researchers concluded.

The report proposes streamlining the FIT application process where possible, in particular moving the permitting process online for commercial, industrial and multifamily rooftop solar projects— which together comprise 69 percent of LA County’s solar potential. It also outlines strategies to expedite the processing of smaller commercial projects, which tend to have greater local economic development and job creation benefits for the local community.

“CLEAN LA Solar installations are already providing clean and sustainable power to communities across the city, from North Hollywood to Downtown Los Angeles to Chatsworth,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “As the FIT continues to expand, it’s important that the process be streamlined and simplified as much as possible, particularly for the applicants that commit to hiring local developers and disadvantaged workers.”


California
Governor Jerry Brown believes incentives through efforts that include California’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program are important to driving continued solar energy development in the state’s urban areas. “PACE enables homeowners to buy solar panels, install low-flow toilets and make other smart investments that save energy and water without breaking the bank,” he said. “As California confronts a severe drought and a rapidly changing climate, this program gives homeowners another opportunity to do their part.”

According to Sharing Solar’s Promise, California leads the nation in solar job creation with over 47,000 workers, accounting for about one-third of the nation’s total solar industry employment. And across the state itself, job growth in the solar sector (8.1%) outpaced overall job growth (1.7%) in the past year, a trend that is expected to continue.

“Rooftop solar on commercial buildings is a critical piece of Los Angeles’ economic development strategy which is why we’ve worked so hard to see the FIT realized,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “Our CLEAN LA Coalition, including the Sierra Club and leading business, civic and other environmental and community-based organizations, is confident that an expanded FIT will place Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean energy movement in urban America, while spurring long-term economic benefits locally.”

LABC Chairman Jacob Lipa was enthusiastic about the study’s positive outlook on the FIT for workers and businesses alike. “It’s clear that the FIT is successfully creating a strong foundation for a thriving in-basin solar industry, while also stimulating local job growth and generating economic opportunity for the neighborhoods that need it the most,” he said. “Los Angeles has truly set a model for the rest of the country to follow, and we look forward to a bright future for this smart program that is simultaneously bringing in direct investment to the city and decreasing our impact on the environment.”

About the Los Angeles Business Council Institute

The LABC Institute is a forward-thinking research and education organization dedicated to strengthening the sustainable economy of California. Founded in 2010, the Institute provides a bridge between the business, government, environmental, labor and nonprofit communities of Southern California to develop policies and programs that promote investment, jobs and business development. The Institute is the research and education arm of the Los Angeles Business Council, one of the most respected business advocacy organizations in the region. Founded in 1936, the LABC is known as an innovator and catalyst for policy development on a wide range of issues, including education, housing, green building, energy efficiency, transportation and solar development. For more information, please visit www.labcinstitute.org.

About the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) conducts research and facilitates discussions on issues of environmental justice, regional inclusion and social movement building. Since 2007, we have conducted high-quality research in our focus areas that is relevant to public policy concerns and that reaches to those directly affected communities that most need to be engaged in the discussion. PERE is situated within the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. For more information, please visit dornsife.usc.edu.

About the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, founded with a generous gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin, unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders to address pressing issues and translate world class research and expertise into real-world policy solutions. Research initiatives are supported by teams of faculty and staff from a variety of academic disciplines. The Luskin Center supports these initiatives by funding original research, scholars, conferences, technical internships and solution-oriented speaker series. The Luskin Center is based in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. For more information, please visit luskin.ucla.edu.

 

SOURCE Los Angeles Business Council Institute

 

LA’s Rooftop Solar Program Delivering Promised Results, Finds Luskin Center

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles’ groundbreaking new rooftop solar energy program is delivering on its promise to bring cost-effective, clean power to tens of thousands of LADWP customers, and is ready for a significant expansion that would bring even greater benefits to Angelenos, according to a new report issued today by J.R. DeShazo, Director of UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation.

Under the feed-in-tariff (FiT) program, the design of which was informed by previous research from the Luskin Center, electric power generated by solar rooftop installations on office and retail buildings, warehouses and apartment complexes is sold to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for use by its residential and business customers.

After numerous interviews with primary stakeholders, including solar developers and participating property owners, the UCLA researchers evaluated the initial two phases of the program, representing about 40 megawatts (MW) of solar power. These two allocations received a total of 256 program applications. Based on the successful rollout, the research team concluded that the “FiT 100” is on track to deliver 100 MW of carbon-free energy by 2015 – enough to power more than 21,000 homes annually.

Importantly, the program is also on track to deliver on the jobs, economic and sustainability goals outlined when city officials approved the program in 2012. And the cost of power – averaging 15 cents per kilowatt-hour – is lower than any other similar FiT program in North America.

“The Los Angeles Business Council has been one of the strongest advocates for a viable feed-in-tariff program to produce 100 megawatts of solar electricity,” said L.A. City Councilmember Mitchell Englander. “Together the City of Los Angeles and the LABC have made great strides towards our efforts to reduce the City’s dependency on coal, moving away from centralized generation toward a more distributed model while creating thousands of local jobs in the process. Although the first and second tranches were successful, this study highlights an opportunity to make the process more user-friendly and cost-efficient in the future.”

In addition to clear environmental benefits, the installation of the first 40 megawatts is on course to generate 862 jobs, and the full 100 MW program is expected to create more than 2,000 jobs – 1,370 direct jobs plus 785 more indirectly related to the program, according to the UCLA study. The FiT 100 is also expected to deliver approximately $300 million in direct investment in the City of Los Angeles by solar companies and other businesses involved in the program.

Once the full FiT 100 program is in place, the UCLA research team estimates that as many as 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases will be displaced from the environment every year. “Imagine taking away the emissions from about half a million cars annually. That’s what this solar program is on track to deliver by replacing dirty, coal-fired power with clean, renewable solar power,” said Evan Gillespie, Western Region Deputy Director of the Sierra Club.

“Rooftops of office buildings, warehouses and apartments within the Los Angeles basin are proving to be outstanding sites for solar power plants,” according to Brad Cox, Chairman of the LABC Institute. “With about 10,000 acres of rooftops in Los Angeles, we think the sky is the limit for the solar FiT program.”

“The UCLA findings on the FiT program’s launch provide the hard economic and environmental data that city officials need to justify expanding the program,” said L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz “We have the potential to scale this program like no other city in America, and the environmental and economic benefits will be impressive in their size and scope for decades to come.”

The CLEAN LA Solar Coalition, spearheaded by the Los Angeles Business Council, has long touted the benefits that the solar FiT could bring to diverse communities throughout Los Angeles. The UCLA analysis confirms that applications received for the first two waves of the program came from each of L.A.’s 15 City Council districts, with the largest number coming from the sun-rich San Fernando Valley and others coming from South Los Angeles. The FiT is seen by many as a geographic complement to the LADWP’s existing net metering solar program, whose participants are largely on LA’s west side.

“Every community should benefit from this rooftop solar program, and so far it’s clear that effective rooftop solar can create opportunities in every part of the city,” said Manuel Pastor, Director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. The FiT’s early installations show the diversity of opportunity throughout the city. In June 2013, residents celebrated the first FiT connection atop an apartment building in North Hollywood. In December, a solar array was activated on the roof of Southern California Trophy Company’s 20,000-squarefoot-production facility in downtown Los Angeles, and most recently a 500-KW installation on a warehouse in Chatsworth. Numerous other projects are set to go live in 2014.

While acknowledging the strong rollout of the FiT, the UCLA research team also identified ways to improve several aspects of the program, especially as it scales to 100 MW and then to 600 MW. To incentivize small projects, the LADWP should consider differentiating the tariff paid to small and large project categories, potentially improving the financial viability of small projects. Another solution, according to the report, may be to increase the size range for a small project.

The study recommends several areas for possible improvement as the program expands. To create more certainty for solar companies and building owners, the LADWP should anticipate costs to connect the new solar arrays to the electrical grid. Also, the city’s Building & Safety Department should issue clearer guidelines and a resources manual to make the permit process more streamlined and efficient.

Also, the UCLA study suggests that the LADWP extend its FiT contracts from 20 to 25 years. Doing so will help the utility secure renewable energy for a longer time period, and assist solar developers in improving financing terms. The team also believes that greater awareness of the program would incentivize more building owners to make their rooftops available for solar projects.

“Los Angeles is quietly building the model, commercially-scalable rooftop solar program in the country, yet very few building owners know about it,” said Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council. “The solar firms did a good job of approaching building owners in the first two phases, but we think it’s critical for the city to build greater awareness so more building owners can evaluate if this solar program is a good fit. The more they know about it, the faster the program can grow and meet its full potential.”

At LABC’s request, the USC Program for Environmental & Regional Equity is evaluating how the FiT can maximize its economic impact locally, especially on hiring and investment in low-income communities. The USC study is scheduled to be released at the 2014 LABC Sustainability Summit in April.

For more information about the LADWP Feed-in Tariff Program, please visit www.ladwp.com/fit. 

For more information about the Los Angeles Business Council and the CLEAN LA Coalition that worked to bring this program together, please visit www.cleanlasolar.org.

For the full report Click Here.