Thoughts on Solar Measure B

In Solar Measure B on February 6, 2009 at 8:50 am

Earlier this week I was on Larry Mantle to discuss Solar Measure B.

A link to the discussion can be found here.

If you listen to the debate, there are a few unanswered questions that stand out:

1. On the program, former DWP president David Freeman made mention of the fact that we need solar power. But he really didn’t go into why we need Measure B to achieve this goal. He himself admitted that the DWP could go and install solar power on roofs without this Measure – so what then is the purpose of Measure B?

2. Beyond hiring and training technicians, how does the DWP plan on executing this program? How will audits be done to ensure that the goals of the measure are being achieved? How will people be compensated for having solar on their roof? How will the DWP satisfy claims resulting from poor/improper installations? There is no provision for any of this in the ballot measure, and David Freeman couldn’t answer these questions.

These are the questions that I believe need to be debated, answered in public, and should have been answered in the ballot measure, before it was passed by the City Council. As I stated on the Larry Mantle program, the current measure, as written, lacks the specifics necessary to ensure that this program is implemented in a manner that is fair and accountable to DWP ratepayers.

Look, at this point everyone wants Solar Power. The issue isn’t IF we do it…the issue is HOW.

On today’s program, David Freeman admitted that there is nothing preventing the DWP from installing solar now. So what does Measure B do? As I stated in the discussion, the purpose of this measure is to modify the Los Angeles Charter to allow the Council to have significantly more say in DWP operations while compressing the timeframe for debate and contract awards.Additionally, this measure significantly benefits the IBEW Union, who as a result of this measure will become the only game in town for solar installation in the City of LA if this bill passes.

For over 20 years the DWP has fought against solar and solar subsidies for environmentally minded citizens. Why? The harsh truth is that (historically) solar increases the cost of energy production to the DWP. How? The business of power is the business of infrastructure costs. For a power company, their infrastructure costs – transformers, power lines, etc – are fixed. Simple supply and demand dictates that the more power that they put out on a line, the lower their cost to provide that power.

Rooftop solar changes the supply/demand dynamic by putting the power source on your roof. As a result, the consumer usually benefits because they are drawing less power from DWP, thereby lowering their power bill. DWP, on the other hand, just had their transmission costs increase as less power will be put out on the line (because it is now coming from the roof).

It seems that the DWP’s solution to this supply/demand issue is either 1) to take the solar power from my roof, and supply it to my neighbor (see section 23.162 on page 10 of the ballot measure) ; or 2) DWP will use their ownership of my roof to acquire renewable energy credits (and possibly future carbon credits) to offset the cost of the panel installation and maintenance. In either case, the result of Measure B is the same – DWP keeps their transmission costs low, and my power bill high. David Freeman admitted as much when he said “he didn’t know how the customer would be compensated for having solar on their roof”.  I don’t think Measure B is a good deal for the DWP ratepayer, but is a good deal for DWP.

In short, Measure B will put solar panels and an easment on your roof – but it will not lower your monthly electical bill.

I encourage you to do your own research on Measure B – read the ballot measure, the argument for, the argument against, and decide for yourself. I think you’ll see that we don’t need Measure B we don’t need to amend the city charter to get rooftop solar (a statement that even the former president of the DWP can agree with, as he did on Airtime with Larry Mantle).

Based on this, I sincerely hope that people take off their green colored glasses and say yes to solar, but NO to Measure B.


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