This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 03, 2008

Los Angeles Pursues 1,300 Megawatts of Solar Power by 2020

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled on November 24 an aggressive solar power plan that aims to encourage the installation of 1,300 megawatts (MW) of solar power throughout the city and surrounding areas of Southern California by 2020. Called "Solar LA," the plan addresses solar power systems on residential, commercial, and municipal properties. The plan includes a requirement for the city's municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water (LADWP), to install 400 MW of solar power on city-owned property by 2014. By 2020, the utility will be required to procure an additional 500 MW of utility-scale solar power through contracts with third-party developers, with the option to purchase the systems after about eight years of operations.

Residential customers will be offered expanded rebates, including free systems for some customers in low-income neighborhoods, and the city may offer loans that can be repaid through property taxes. Residential customers that can't afford their own solar power system will be able to buy shares of an LADWP solar power plant through a new program called "SunShares." Combined, these programs could yield another 230 MW of solar power by 2020. But perhaps the most unique part of the plan is the city's intent to institute a feed-in tariff, which would allow solar developers throughout the city to sell power directly to LADWP under a long-term contract. The feed-in tariff is expected to yield another 150 MW of solar power by 2016. See the Mayor's press release and the full plan (PDF 298 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

California established a feed-in tariff earlier this year for seven of the state's utilities, but only Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison offered feed-in tariff programs in which any customer could participate. That was later expanded to include customers of San Diego Gas & Electric Company. Those programs applied to customer-located renewable energy systems up to 1.5 megawatts in capacity, and as of October, PG&E had signed 12 contracts totaling more than 9.5 MW. However, the California Energy Commission (CEC) held a staff workshop on December 1 to consider expanding the state's feed-in tariffs to include projects larger than 20 MW. Meanwhile, a group called the Alliance for Renewable Energy was formed in spring to create awareness and build support for feed-in tariffs, which that group refers to as renewable energy payments. See the CEC workshop notice, which includes background information on the state's feed-in tariffs, and see also the Alliance for Renewable Energy Web site.