Los Angeles businesses contemplate ambitious solar feed-in tariff scenarios

Group hopes to inspire solar investment without associated utility rate hikes.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Even though the shape of solar feed-in tariff programs has lately been questioned in places like Germany, where it is a national effort, a group of Los Angeles businesses (the Los Angeles Business Council) -- along with the Luskin Center for Innovation at the University of California at Los Angeles -- studying the potential to start such a program in Los Angeles County.

Solar feed-in programs work in the following way: they allow businesses or resident to install solar panels on their property (roofs or parking lots) and sell the power generated by them back to local power utilities. Any power that a solar owner sends back to the grid, so to speak, would be paid for in some way.

 	 <a href=This particular group is pretty bullish on the idea. In fact, their study encourages the county to start what it is describing as the largest solar feed-in tariff programs in the United States. They are hoping to encourage the development of roughly 500 megawatts solar-generated electricity capacity over the next decade. That is about 3 percent of the city's power needs. Benefits of the program would include what the group is describing as 11,000 "local green" jobs and long-term cost savings for rate payers. The program would cost about $23 million annually, the study concludes, but it would help the city avoid rate increases tat it has been considering for alternative renewable energy programs.

Here's the requisite policy statement that the study has inspired by the Los Angeles Business Council President Mary Leslie:

“Regardless of the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the City Council, the Mayor and the DWP Commission to create a new source of funding to green the LADWP, future resources for renewable programs will be limited. To make any meaningful impact, policymakers will have to identify renewable programs that deliver immediate results and produce the greatest benefits for their cost. The findings in our study validate an ambitious Feed-in Tariff as one of the smartest investments Los Angeles can make to create a cost-effective, locally generated source of solar energy and grow our green economy.”

The Los Angeles solar feed-in tariff advocates point to a program in Gainesville, Florida, as a positive model for what they're trying to achieve. That program met its goal for first-year participation within a week. The investment that the solar owners have made is paying roughly 4 percent to 5 percent, according to the Los Angeles group's analysis.

The idea of any sort of renewable energy feed-in program makes all sorts of sense to me. Think about it: while you're away on vacation or even just at work, the power your investment is generating could work sort of like your money in the bank, generating a return on your investment. Of course, the thing you REALLY need to pull this off are smart meters and distribution technologies that allow the grid to actually accept and incorporate multiple energy-generation sources. That, it seems, has been a lot harder to pull off than originally anticipated.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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