Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains - Nserrano, CC By 3.0, en wikipedia

Los Angeles’ Solar Promise

A new Report Shows how to Harness LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PMLos Angeles has the potential to become the largest per capita provider of rooftop solar in California. Over 40% of the areas where solar could be installed are also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. A new report from the LABC Institute discusses how this can be done.

The first step would be to scale up the FiT program from its current 100 MW to 600 MW. This is half half way to the 1,200 MW that the city hopes to have installed by 2020, in order to achieve its part in California’s goal toobtain 1/3 of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

“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.

Environment California, Mayor Eric Garcetti, numerous politicians, non-profits and businesses (including SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity) all support this goal.

Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have shown that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, which could support a far larger FIT than is being discussed.

The report suggests “that the program should encourage solar job creation in high-need areas, and that disadvantaged worker credits and local business preferences be built into the program.” There are already a number of local and student programs in low-income areas in the San Fernando Valley, Downtown and East Los Angeles. Some target disadvantaged and at-risk youth, including Homeboy Industries’ Solar Installation Training and Certification Program, which works with ex-offenders and former gang members, and the Los Angeles Conversation Corps’ ) Green Job Training Program, which serves low-income youth.

Solar installation on roof of Oxnard Plaza Apartments- LADWP photo (see associated article)
Solar installation on roof of Oxnard Plaza Apartments- LADWP photo (Click on picture to expand photo, or on this link to access article about Oxnard plaza)

“An increasing body of research, including from organizations such as the Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund, is showing that economic growth strategies that advance social equity can also result in long- term, economic growth.”

The authors also call for further streamlining of the permitting process. They recommend that Mayor Garcetti’s online permit processing, for small residential solar projects, be followed up on. This will help end the long wait times in the application process.

At the moment, 109 (or 43%) of Los Angeles’ FIT projects are “in-progress” and 20 are near completion. Another 126 projects (or 49%) are on hold and , not initially selected for development. To date, 21 projects (or 8 percent) have been cancelled.

“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.

This appears to have had some impact in the city’s construction industry. Unemployment has dropped from 19%, a few years ago, to 13.5% today.

There are currently more than 300 solar firms employing close to 11,000 people in southern California.

(Image at top of page: Los Angeles skyline and San Gabriel mountains – Nserrano, CC By 3.0, en wikipedia )

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