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, 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.

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.

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