Supporting Los Angeles Green Power Communities
On March 14, 2012, Renewables 100 Policy Institute Founding Director Diane Moss spoke to a gathering of Los Angeles citizens who have committed to switching to 100% renewable power. In response to Vice President Al Gore's 2008 call for the U.S. to adopt 100% clean electricity, the neighborhoods of Silverlake, Venice, and Mar Vista have pledged to switch by 2018 to all renewable resources for their power consumption. Together they have formed a group called Green Power Communities.
The group met at the Living Room, a vintage chic furniture store in the eclectic, progressive neighborhood of Silverlake. Led by Mar Vista resident and Green Power Communities organizer James Brennan, the meeting also included remarks by representatives of the local Neighborhood Council and the local public utility, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), along with a presentation by Paul Spencer of Colorado's Clean Energy Collective.
Diane shared best practices on designing frameworks for effective renewable electricity programs, as well as renewable power success stories from around the world, such as those on www.go100percent.org. She emphasized the potential for California to lead on renewable energy development, as it did 30 years ago, and that the state is indeed still a forerunner in the U.S.
But she also made clear that California and the U.S. are falling far behind many countries in renewable energy advancement and warned that serious local and global harm is a high risk, if we do not shift to energy paradigm based on 100% renewable resources
She made the case that the strongest driver of rapid, economical renewable power across the democratized world is a well designed feed-in tariff (FIT), which guarantees three essential things: 1) easy and streamlined interconnection of all renewable power generators into the grid, 2) payment for any necessary grid upgrades, and 3) attractive fixed prices over a long term for electricity produced from renewables. She explained that California has had a small FIT since 2008 for its three large investor owned (IOU) utilities. But it is unfortunately designed for - and getting - only small results. The program has only achieved installation of a fraction of its program cap of 750 MW of renewable electricity in its first 4 years. To put that in perspective, Germany's feed-in tariff put more than 10,000 MW of new renewable power into the grid in its first 4 years. Germany has about twice the population of California, but also comparatively more limited resources like sunshine.
LADWP had proposed a very modest feed-in tariff (10-75 MW) in recent months for solar power only, but it has been abandoned for a small lowest bid auction program, at least during the pilot phase. The utility is still confusingly calling this program a FIT, even though it does not include many of the key features of an effective FIT.
The only options for advancing renewable currently available to Green Power Communities are:
1. To opt for LADWP's Green Power program, which allows customers to buy power exclusively produced by wind and small hydro for a premium of an extra $.03/kw.
Diane noted that, by contrast, where there are effective FITs, there is a trend of 100% renewable power utilities offering actually cheaper pricing than conventional energy competitors.
2. Home and building owners can take advantage of federal, state and local rebates to purchase that bring down the cost of installing on-site solar panels.
Unfortunately, Los Angeles residents and businesses, along with many people wanting to install solar power throughout California and the rest of the U.S., face difficult red tape, which inhibits the pace of solar uptake in the sunny town. For example, whereas countries like Germany, Japan, and France have eliminated building permits for residential solar installations, Los Angeles citizens often face fees and months of waiting for the permitting and inspection process to complete. Interconnection fees and wait times can also present barriers.
To overcome these obstacles, the Green Power Communities are exploring a number of options and getting organized. Never underestimate the power of a motivated community.