Rooftop Solar Energy Program Wins Approval From Los Angeles City Council

The Los Angeles City Council cleared the way for the launch of an innovative rooftop solar-energy program today, approving a measure to allow the Department of Water and Power (DWP) to move forward with the groundbreaking CLEAN LA Solar program.

“This is a smart, cost-effective method for businesses to create economic opportunity while weaning ourselves off the coal-fired plants that generate most of the city’s power.”

The CLEAN LA Solar program will allow local property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to the DWP, using a mechanism called a feed-in tariff, or FiT. Los Angeles will be the largest city in the nation to adopt such a program, which will supply renewable energy at a reasonable cost while spurring private investment, creating high-quality jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping the state and city meet renewable power requirements.

The Los Angeles Business Council (LABC) has been the leading advocate for the CLEAN LA Solar program since 2009. Research conducted by the LABC and the LABC Institute has demonstrated that enacting the full CLEAN LA Solar program, which includes a 150-megawatt FiT, will create 4,500 jobs, generate $500 million in economic activity and offset 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016. Recognizing this tremendous potential, a broad coalition of businesses, environmental groups, labor organizations and other groups have joined the LABC to support the plan.

“Today’s vote helps open the door to a significant new era in renewable power generation in Los Angeles,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “The CLEAN LA Solar plan will create meaningful economic development and thousands of jobs while moving us closer to our sustainability goals.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped set the CLEAN LA Solar plan in motion in 2008, when he ambitiously called for a 150-megawatt FiT program to be created in Los Angeles. “It’s time we start using one of Los Angeles’ most abundant resources – sunshine. By using our resources wisely, we have the potential to lead the nation in solar power,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “Rooftop solar in Los Angeles can create significant amounts of clean energy and support thousands of good jobs in the process.”

Currently, most of L.A.’s renewable power is generated outside the L.A. basin and transmitted inefficiently to customers. By contrast, the CLEAN LA program will incentivize clean-energy production within city limits by taking advantage of L.A.’s vast, underused rooftop space. The result will be more efficient power delivery and meaningful local jobs in such areas such as solar sales, installation and maintenance.

Councilmember Eric Garcetti, a longtime supporter of the CLEAN LA Solar program, said businesses in his district and throughout the city stand to gain considerably once the program is up and running. “Rooftop space in Los Angeles is truly an untapped resource,” Garcetti said. “This forward-thinking solar program will allow owners of commercial and industrial buildings, as well as multifamily residential properties, to benefit directly from our abundant sunshine, while creating jobs that our communities need.”

The ordinance approved today authorizes Nichols, DWP’s General Manager, to move forward with a FiT of up to 150 megawatts without returning to the City Council to approve various contracts or agreements. The measure also provides a streamlined FiT application process and lowers the program’s administrative costs.

Councilmember Jan Perry was also an early supporter of the program when she served as Chairwoman of the Council’s Energy and Environment Committee.

The Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve the launch of a 10-megawatt demonstration project later today. The first 75 megawatts of the full program are expected to come on line this year, with an additional 75 megawatts expected by 2016. A full 150-megawatt FiT program would power the equivalent of 34,000 L.A. homes.

Brad Cox, Senior Managing Director of Trammell Crow Company, said the CLEAN LA Solar program should be welcomed by commercial property owners throughout Los Angeles. “We have the largest underutilized rooftop capacity in California, and one of the sunniest cities in the country,” Cox said. “This is a smart, cost-effective method for businesses to create economic opportunity while weaning ourselves off the coal-fired plants that generate most of the city’s power.”

Bill Corcoran, the Western Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said today’s approval could help L.A. become a national trailblazer when it comes to local clean energy. “Los Angeles’ energy mix leads to significant carbon pollution, waste ash and other toxic byproducts. By contrast, the CLEAN LA Solar plan will provide renewable energy that is reliable, affordable, and sustainable,” Corcoran said. “Better yet, we’re investing money back in local businesses across the city in order to produce clean, affordable energy, rather than sending money out-of-state to pay for dirty coal.”

In addition to members of the business, labor and environmental communities, a variety of social justice advocates support the CLEAN LA plan as well, citing its potential to benefit diverse and low-income communities.

“This program will allow the entire city to participate in our emerging green economy, rather than just a privileged few,” said Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment. “In addition, the FiT will provide critical economic help to areas where it’s needed most. We urge city leaders to move forward with a 150-megawatt program as quickly as possible.”

On April 17, LABC will offer one of two upcoming training workshops for FiT applicants. To learn more about the workshop, please email