Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed Thursday an ordinance giving the Department of Water and Power authority to sign contracts to purchase solar power from local providers to supply electricity to the rest of the city.
The department plans to sign up to 20-year contracts with a mix of residential and commercial solar power providers as part of a pilot project that will eventually generate close to 10 megawatt hours of electricity.
"This ordinance will allow Los Angeles to become the largest city in the nation to implement a feed-in-tariff system," Villaraigosa told an audience of reporters and environmental and business groups. "We are starting small, testing the market and making sure we have the best, most cost effective system for the future."
The department is mandated by the state to purchase at least 75 megawatts of solar power from residents and businesses through the feed-in- tariff program. Officials said they hoped to eventually ramp up to 150 megawatts, or about 3 percent of all the power the city uses.
DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said the rates would be set through a competitive bid process in order to get the best deal on the power for the ratepayers. "Clearly, solar is our best option for increasing local renewable energy, while meeting state renewable energy mandates and channeling economic benefits and job creation to the citizens of Los Angeles," Nichols said.
DWP will begin holding public workshops next week, though the Board of Water and Power Commissioners still needs to give the program a final approval, which is set for Tuesday.
Citing federal data, Councilman Eric Garcetti said the city gets about 260 days of sunshine per year. "We rank above Honolulu. We rank above Miami ... and now we're going to harvest the power and sunlight like we've never seen before," he said.
Garcetti said the feed-in tariff would be good for property owners and would also generate good jobs. "Most green jobs connected to solar are not in the creation of solar panels. It's in the installation of solar panels," he said.
At least one councilman, Richard Alarcon, has expressed concern the department might pay too much for the solar energy. During a council hearing last week, DWP officials said the department typically pays close to 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour from large-scale solar energy producers. The feed-in tariff program unanimously approved by the City Council and signed by Villaraigosa gives DWP authority to sign contracts for a rate as high as 30 cents per kilowatt hour.
DWP Assistant Director of Power System Planning and Projects Michael Webster told the council the department expects to pay well under the approved maximum rate.
The Los Angeles Business Council, a coalition of businesses spanning the banking, legal, development and other sectors, applauded the mayor's signing of the ordinance.
"Today we mark the start of this program that will spur new private sector investment, create meaningful jobs for a well trained workforce and generate local clean energy," LABC President Mary Leslie said.
— City News Service