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Environment & Science

LA city council brings DWP back to answer more questions about solar buyback program

The DWP's
The DWP's "feed-in tariff" program aims to encourage solar projects larger than those on typical residential homes in the LA basin by buying back energy through long-term contracts.
Metro Transportation Library & Archive/Flickr

The Los Angeles City Council says it has questions about a new program that would allow owners of rooftop solar panels to sell energy back to the grid. Today, the council is bringing the Department of Water and Power in to get answers. 

The initiative, called the "feed-in tariff" program, would be the largest urban rooftop solar effort in the country. LA's Water and Power commissioners approved it a week and a half ago.

Business leaders and environmental groups strongly support the program. They say it will create thousands of jobs, drive half a billion dollars in economic activity every year, and help LA meet state-required renewable energy targets.

At least one solar company has said it will invest more money and hire more people in the region because of this initiative.

But Fred Pickel, the utility's ratepayer advocate, has raised a couple of red flags. He says the program would pay above market rates to those selling back excess solar power. And Pickel didn't like that it could increase the average household's electric bill by about 15 cents a month.

"I believe the pricing is too high," Pickel told water and power commisioners.

That persuaded the LA city council to take another look at the program before it goes into effect.

DWP General Manager Ron Nichols says the feed-in tariff would be a good investment. "We made a value judgment that 15 cents per month for our average residential customer is not an undue burden for Los Angeles to try to pave the way at a meaningful level for LA, for California, for the nation," he said.