Los Angeles Sets 10% Solar Goal for 2020


UPDATED Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to unveil a proposal this afternoon to meet 10 percent of the city’s energy needs with solar power by 2020. The announcement will be made at Solar Integrated Technologies (s SIT), an LA-based company contracted last month to supply thin-film solar panels for a 1.1 megawatt project by Oregon utility Portland General Electric (s POR).

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power spokesperson Carol Tucker told us this morning that most of today’s proposal “is in the planning stages,” and Jared Irmas at the mayor’s office said it would involve private partners, including Solar Integrated Technologies.

What we do know is that implementation of the new project will fall to the Department of Water and Power, which earlier this year launched a $270 million solar program meant to help create up to 400 union jobs in three years and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — not a small task for a city that, according to a report from the mayor’s office released last year, contributes as much carbon dioxide emissions as all of Sweden (about one-fifth of a percent of global emissions). Update below the fold.

Update: The mayor’s office has revealed that the planned 1.3 gigawatt project is to be a network of solar power systems owned by the city, residents and private companies. The proposal includes new incentives and low-interest loans for residential and commercial installations, as well as a push for large-scale solar projects outside of the Los Angeles basin (in the Mojave Desert, for example) with purchase agreements — but not necessarily funding — from the LA utility. After about eight years, the Department of Water and Power would have the option to buy these plants.

A new feed-in tariff — one of the incentives that UK Environment Agency head Chris Smith highlighted in his recent call for a green New Deal — would allow solar energy providers to sell power directly to the utility, reaping tax incentives valued at up to 60 percent of installation costs.

Part of Villaraigosa’s goal is to have a reliable source of energy during hours when demand for electricity peaks and LA’s power grid (now fueled primarily with coal) becomes strained. According to the Department of Water and Power, 8 percent of the city’s supply now comes from renewable sources, including solar, wind, and geothermal, up from only 3 percent in 2005.

The other part, of course, is spurring job growth at a time when California’s unemployment rate has jumped to 8.2 percent, its highest in 14 years and worse than all U.S. states except for Rhode Island and Michigan. Southern California has been especially hard hit, the LA Times reports, with Los Angeles County’s unemployment hitting 8.4 percent last month.


Josie Garthwaite

Hi Jeff. It’s true that California utilities generally rely more heavily on natural gas than coal. But the major utility for Los Angeles, which we wrote about in this post, is an exception — it sources more than 45 percent of its power from coal.

Jeff Kelly

Please get your facts right. Southern California gets most of its power from natural gas, not coal. There are numerous natural gas power plants all over the LA basin. Coal power there generally comes from what power California imports from states to its east, which is relatively small. Nonetheless, the city’s plan is a great start. California’s effective wind energy potential is not great relative to many other states; Southern California has low coastal wave energy relative to the north coast. Solar’s where its at for The Southland. The peaking nature of solar power intersects perfectly with air conditioning power demand. The Killer App: solar energy from pavement and parking lots. Some concepts have already been discussed.

I strongly disagree that this energy investment money should be diverted to the poor. There will never be an end to poverty, so this argument will forever prevent any investment in clean energy, including job creation. One thing that will greatly benefit California’s economy, including those at the bottom rungs, is a stabilization of energy prices through renewable energy. The massive speculation-driven energy price increases of the past decade have wiped out the discretionary income of many Californians. And then there is the benefit of cleaner air.


I do hope they can do this someday but I have my doubts, as people have always had such great plans for LA but most of them just quietly go away. And as much as I would love to see this happen eventually, I do think the city has much bigger problems on it’s hands other than powering 10% of itself with solar energy. The homeless, helpless and underprivileged peoples of LA need what little money the city can spare or invest in itself. In this case, I would like to see humans get the direct benefit of any monies spent. Other cities, it might work…but the people of LA need help, big time – and much more than what solar power could do for them.

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