“Private and Confidential” Study Warns Costs of Solar Plan Could Soar, Questions DWP’s Planning, Financial Skills

A front page story in the Daily News  Saturday under the headline “Solar panel initiative getting costlier” reveals for the first time the contents of a definitive $1 million study (dwp-iea.pdf ) analyzing the Department of Water and Power’s operations and performance over the last five years.

City Hall reporter Rick Orlov got his hands on the year-long study by PA Consulting (IEA-excerpts.doc) and reported that Measure B, the city initiative on the March 3
ballot that calls for the installation of rooftop panels to capture
solar energy, “could cost more than double current estimates.”

“Without
significant technology advances and yet unseen economies of scale, it
would be challenging at best for LADWP to be able to implement the plan
for the current $1.5 billion low estimate LADWP has provided,” the report (IEA-summary.doc) entitled “Industrial, Economic and Administrative Survey” said.

The study estimates the minimum costs at $2.8 billion to $3.6 billion and warns that rooftop panels
on industrial, commercial and government buildings would generate only about 20 percent of the capacity the DWP needs,
with much greater energy coming from wind turbines.

Per kilowatt-hour of energy produced, over its life, solar
(photo voltaic) is expected to cost more than two times the cost of
concentrated solar generation and six times the cost of typical wind
generation,” the report said, adding the cost of rooftop solar is
$7,000 per kilowatt-hour, three times that of wind and 1.5 times that
of concentrated solar.

The report said the utility has a continuing
problem in how it is managed and does not have a comprehensive approach to strategic planning and long-term analysis.

“It is unclear that LADWP’s current strategic
planning process and financial analyses are sufficient to appropriately
plan and manage such a complex portfolio of assets,” the report said.

What’s Wrong with Measure B: The Facts


Editorials
in the last week in January in the L.A. Times and Daily News carried these
headlines: “
L.A.‘s Secret
Solar Plan” and “In the dark over Measure B.”

A month before the election
on the largest solar energy initiative in U.S. history, we don’t know what
Measure B does other than mandate that DWP and its IBEW union own, install and
maintain 400 megawatts of rooftop solar units on commercial, industrial and
public buildings and that the mayor and City Council will be given the power to directly
manage all aspects of the program.

 

THE FACTS:


* The Department of Water and
Power initiated with much fanfare the nation’s most aggressive solar energy
program in the
U.S. in 1999 under General Manager S. David Freeman. Millions of dollars
were spent on public relations and community outreach, resulting in massive waste identified in City Controller audits and very little green energy.


* The DWP promised 100 MW of solar power in the city but has produced just 12
MW. DWP gave discounts to the largest users effectively prohibiting solar installations.
DWP and IBEW blocked repeated efforts to plan and produce a rooftop solar
program and even at times sharply cut funding for home units. Three solar
manufacturers set up operations in
L.A. but left because of DWP resistance to solar and its
demands for a monopoly on all major solar installations.

.

* Three mayors and the City
Council have proven themselves incapable of forcing DWP to move forward on
solar energy. Measure B is a City Charter reform that removes the wall
protecting DWP from being politicized by giving the mayor and City Council
direct control over all aspects of this program, even contracting.

 

* No planning, no cost
analysis, no technology study have gone into Measure B. It’s simply a blank
check to the DWP and city officials. Most of the money will go to
China where the plates are made so DWP only promises a few
hundred new jobs in
L.A.

 

* City Hall revenue has
soared by more than one third in three years yet overspending has created massive
deficits of more than $400 million, 10 percent of the General Fund. It will get
worse with the $43 billion state budget shortfall. Federal stimulus money will
fund public works projects, not solve the city’s General Fund problem. City
officials have yet to seriously address the budget problem and now are asking
for billions for solar without any safeguards.

 

* Electricity rates have
risen sharply and are certain to go much higher even without this massive solar
energy initiative. DWP has allowed its power grid to deteriorate from a lack of
investment. It has the largest coal-burning power plant portfolio in the
U.S., which has allowed rates to be kept low. Measure B
will not close any of these plants. It will not even meet demand caused by
over-development and the 900 digital billboards already approved. DWP must
invest billions of dollars in its power infrastructure even without initiating
this costly solar program.

 

* Solar energy has nearly 100
percent public support but Measure B is not the answer. There’s a better way.
Real planning, real analysis, real public debate – that’s all opponents of
Measure B are saying. We can’t trust the people who have failed us with a blank
check and no plan.

L.A Times Editorial: Measure B: L.A.’s secret solar plan

EDITOR’S NOTE: Despite an army of DWP and “Yes on B” operatives, millions of dollars in special interest money and overwhelming public support for solar energy, opposition is growing to Measure B. Bel Air Beverly Crest, Tarzana and Valley Village Neighborhood Councils have joined the groundswell of community groups that voted to oppose this ill-conceived, unplanned ballot proposition. Visit the nomeasureb.com website and read today’s L.A. Times editorial. 

The Measure B Mess

Angelenos will be asked to weigh in on a solar power plan on the city’s March 3 ballot, but officials haven’t really told us what we’re voting on.

January 29, 2009

The City Council was unfazed in November when no one from the Department of Water and Power or other City Hall offices could answer some of the most basic questions about a proposed solar power measure the council was about to put on the ballot. How much will it cost ratepayers? Is it financially feasible? How much money will it take to recruit and train new workers?

DWP General Manager H. David Nahai said his agency would have the answers after Huron Consulting Group completed its independent analysis of the plan sometime in January, and council members promised one another that would leave plenty of time for open discussion about the “Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles” program that they seemed too rushed to deal with at the moment. They scheduled the measure for the March 3 election.

The Huron report is due next week, but don’t expect that to spur a month of thoughtful City Council discourse based on the findings. The report is not about Measure B (or Charter Amendment B, take your pick); it’s an analysis of the entire three-part Solar L.A. program, of which Measure B is one part. It won’t tell ratepayers how much their rates will rise. It can’t. There are too many variables — just as there are too many variables to let voters know how much rates will rise without Measure B.

Yet there was Nahai at last week’s commission meeting urging everyone to hold their fire until the Huron report is out. “Until then, I feel that all of the conjecture really does a disservice to the debate,” he said.

The Yes-on-B campaign is in high gear, asking voters to adopt the measure. Voting begins Monday with mail balloting. Yet we’re not supposed to ask questions until the Huron report is out? Meanwhile, where is the language of the measure we’re voting on? Have voters seen it? Is it available? Is it on the city’s website? No — the city clerk’s office is shooting for posting the language sometime toward the end of next week. (If you don’t want to wait, you can find the ballot language on our website, at latimes.com/opinion.)

This page wants smart “in-basin” solar power as an integral part of the city’s energy generation and distribution strategy, and we remain open to the idea that this ballot measure may be the best way to get it. But the process seems designed to get voters to sign off on a plan without sufficient knowledge of it, and it is undermining a broader discussion of solar power in Los Angeles. There is a point at which process gets so bad that it outweighs substance, no matter how good that substance may be. We’re rapidly approaching that point.

UPDATE: Billy’s Learns His Lesson — It’s the Money

After spending months revisiting its 2006 decision to spend $42 million on a pachyderm elephant exhibit at the L.A. Zoo, the City Council voted 11-4 to keep Billy the Elephant caged in more comfortable quarters and bring him some playmates, male and female.

For all the endless hours of public comment and debate — roughly 10 times as much as was spent in putting the largest solar power initiative on the ballot, of all places — the council decided it had nothing to do with Billy’s welfare.

All that mattered was that it was cheaper to keep him at the zoo than to let him roam free in the wilds of the Valley.

So take heart, Los Angeles, they don’t treat elephants any better than they do people.

Billy the Elephant Will Never Forget — and Neither Should We

Columnist Kevin Modesti in the Daily News offers an amusing look today
at the issue that has paralyzed the City Council for so long:


One recent afternoon at the Los Angeles Zoo’s

Thumbnail image for billy3.jpg

elephant exhibit, a grayish creature with wrinkles around the eyes
stared over the wood-and-rope fence. He was slow afoot, kind of
lumbering. He seemed, in some ways, ill-suited to the modern world. He
faced an uncertain future. And, my, what big ears he had.

But enough about me.

This is supposed to be about Billy the elephant…

People care about elephants such as Billy because
we see a lot of ourselves in them, particularly at a time when both man
and beast are struggling to keep up, humans in a rapidly evolving
workplace and animals on a fast- changing globe”

Exactly. The way the City Council has given poor Billy the
Elephant — and the hundreds of people on both sides of the issue —
the runaround for months is typical of how the nation’s highest paid city officials treat everybody.

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer in your face. But who’s laughing?

Tom LaBonge, fresh from his triumph over those who wanted to really protect Griffith Park from the ravages of development, now has moved a step closer to winning approval of finishing the elephant exhibit at the LA Zoo. The council is finally set to actually make a decision today.

His City Council’s Arts and Parks Committee on Tuesday recommended completing the $42 million Pachyderm Forest — now halted after a third of the money was spent.

And he’s armed with a new report from the Chief Legislative Analyst to defeat Tony Cardenas’ plan to create a sanctuary out in the wilds of the Valley while turning the elephant exhibit into a home for
rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses who apparently don’t need room to roam despite their mammoth size.

The CLA, sharing some of the responsibility for the city running up a $400 million deficit despite a 33 percent revenue increase, has become quite conscious of how the public’s money is being spent.

Here’s the findings on the financial impact of changing course (billy-cla.pdf):.

If the Pachyderm Forest Exhibit is completed and the GLAZA offer is accepted, the project’s impact
to the General Fund of $24 million over 20 years would be completely mitigated.
If the Pachyderm Forest Exhibit is cancelled, the General Fund would need to repay $5 million in voter approved funding to the County of Los Angeles within 60 days.
If the Pachyderm Forest Exhibit is replaced with another project, the project’s impact to the General
Fund would be about $26 million in debt service over 20 years.

So if time and money are important, the council will not foreclose on Billy’s home.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this was just an isolated example of City Hall’s failings. But it isn’t.  The council has a way of leaving just about everyone feeling frustrated and wondering why everything takes so long and gets so complicated — everyone that is except those who throw  a lot of money at the animals in the City Hall zoo. 

Bruno, the L.A Watchdog: Does City Hall Know What It’s Doing

By Bruno
L.A.’s Watchdog

Having consumed several bowls of water last night, I Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bruno4.JPGspent a long time on the old Dog Trainer this morning, every skimpy section, and was struck by one glaring fact: These guys we select to run the city don’t know what they’re talking about!

Consider these three headlines:

·    Commercial operations to close at Palmdale Regional Airport

·    L.A. port’s clean-truck program running on empty

·    A mass transit dilemma: Ridership up, funds down

Even in dog years, I’m not that old, but it seems like only yesterday our public officials were touting all these programs. It almost makes you believe they’re fallible.

Opening Palmdale Airport to commercial traffic was going to help fix crowding at LAX and United Airlines even set up a small operation, but it soon became apparent travelers weren’t crazy about traveling all the way to Palmdale to travel to San Francisco. With security and everything, you could drive there faster.

And surprise! The money to fund the clean-truck program at the port isn’t there and the businessmen who thought they would get it to buy the clean trucks are left holding the bag.

Then there’s the infamous Subway to the Sea and other transit improvements our elected officials said were vital to keep us moving when they were campaigning for Measure R to raise our taxes yet again. Now the MTA is talking about cutting service and raising fares.

Grrrrrrrrr!

Keep all this in mind when many of these same officials tell you Measure B, their beloved Solar Initiative, will save the environment and cost you almost nothing.

Well, not all our officials.  Last week, at a public hearing, DWP GM David Nahai, actually said he was waiting for a new report (the last one, well, sucked) to get the facts on Measure B – and he runs the department!

I guess Nahai didn’t read the oped piece in the Daily News by former DWP GM David Freeman, who, in addition to bragging about what a great job he did running the department before he was fired by Richard Riordan, claims that Measure B would damn near save the universe.

Confusing? Too confusing to vote for Measure B? You make up your mind.  I’m just a dog, but I’m wondering if I can believe anything any of them say anymore.

Woof!

Measure B: Lies, Subterfuges and Obfuscations

More than 10 weeks ago, the City Council approved putting Measure B on the March 3 ballot just three weeks after it was introduced — a process that even its most ardent supporters admit was seriously flawed.

Just how flawed becomes more obvious day by day as critics uncover a complex web of lies, subterfuges and obfuscations that make a farce of the whole idea of putting such an ill-defined and unstudied proposal before voters — a measure that profoundly changes the City Charter and puts ratepayers on the hook for billions of dollars and potential liability for anything that goes wrong.

The City Hall political machine likes it just fine that way. They are tapping into millions of dollars in special interest money to sell this to the uninformed, orchestrating a campaign using the full power and staff of the DWP, intimidating opponents and squelching Neighborhood Councils from taking a position and framing the debate so that they can carry out the exact same scheme even if voters reject Measure B.

Politics doesn’t get any dirtier than that — unless the door they have opened to massive graft and corruption with this measure actually occurs.

Just last week after one Neighborhood Council after another came out against Measure B, City Hall issued an edict barring them from taking a position unless the DWP was notified at least 14 days in advance, which makes it almost impossible for them to act in a meaningful way with less than two weeks left before the absentee ballots start rolling in. (More than 60 percent of the votes in this election are expected to come from mail-in voting).

Meanwhile, the DWP is sending out staff to community groups all over the city in a coordinated effort to falsely frame the issue solely as this: Are you for or against solar energy?

And even if Measure B is defeated, DWP General Manager David Nahai made it clear last week that it’s a win-win situation since it would be a repudiation of the back room dirty deals, secrecy and haste with which this was rushed to the ballot.

Just look at the long list of changes that City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said on Nov. 4 — just three days before it was unanimously passed by the council — had to be made to this measuresolarmeasure.pdf

Does anybody in their right mind or with an ounce of integrity actually think that council members who claim they didn’t understand what they were doing two years ago when they agreed to a deal for 900 digital billboards in the city or a $42 million cage for Billy the Elephant knew what they were doing when they voted for a measure this large and complex?

“Neighborhood Councils are all for solar, they’re not against solar,” Nahai said in respond to Dr. Dan Wiseman’s question about what would happen if Measure B loses.

“Part of the concern that is expressed is with the process…if the electorate voices an objection to the process that has been undertaken to lead to the ballot box, I think that’s one message and that would again be a vote not against solar but against the process that was involved.”

It’s noteworthy that Nahai wasn’t even listening to the esteemed doctor who is secretary of the L.A. Neighborhood Council Coalition among many other roles he has taken on make this a better city.

Of course, the Yes on B campaign dismisses Dr Wiseman and all other opponents as “fringe activists” — a McCarthyist tactic similar to the suggestion in the 1950s that anyone with a different point of view was a pinko commie. So much for the honest public discussion the council called for.

Daily News Editorial on Measure B: In the dark

Voters lack crucial cost information on solar initiative

IT’S about time that Los Angeles get some sunshine.
22023278E.jpg
Not necessarily on the streets (we need the rain). Voters need a strong light shone directly onto Measure B, the proposition that would require the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to install enough solar panels throughout the city to generate 400 megawatts of power by 2014.

Sounds like a fine idea, right? Solar is clean, green energy and Los Angeles is the ideal place to generate electricity from the sun. And the investment in local solar could generate a wave of so-called green-collar jobs in photovoltaic panel manufacturing and installation.

Clearly the City Council and the mayor are betting that the warm, fuzzy feeling Angelenos have for alternative energy is incentive enough to vote yes on Measure B without having many details about it. Details such as, why put a policy decision before voters and how much might all of this cost ratepayers down the road?

Here we are at the end of January – three months after the initiative was proposed and five weeks from the election – and we still do not have answers to these crucial questions.

When the City Council rushed this initiative through to the ballot without a thorough vetting, DWP and other city officials dismissed concerns, saying they would produce a cost analysis long before voters had to go to the polls.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

That’s the problem with the so-called Green Energy and Good Jobs program on the March 3 city ballot. It’s a good idea executed in such a rushed and hushed manner that it feels as if we’re being scammed.

Continue reading Daily News Editorial on Measure B: In the dark

The Genius of City Hall Corruption

You got to hand it to City Hall — it has reached a level of such total corruption that even the outcomes of elections make no difference.

There isn’t a dictator or mob boss anywhere who can’t admire the genius of a system that lets politicians and their very special friends live like royalty off the public treasury and still walk around as if they were humble servants of the people.

The case in point is the Measure B solar energy fraud.

It’s taken two months of hard work by dozens of intelligent and experienced people — “fringe activists” in the parlance of the “Yes on B” campaign — to penetrate the lies and deceits to finally understand the truth.

We finally get solar power in the sun capital of the world after a decade of City Hall’s refusal to take advantage of nature’s abundant clean energy resource whether Measure B passes or fails.

The only question is how much they get to steal. And who gets to steal it.

Corruption doesn’t get any more beautiful than that.

If Measure B is approved by voters on March 3 — an outcome that is all but certain given the millions of dollars in special interest money behind it and City Hall’s intimidation of unions, the solar energy industry, business organizations and community and environment groups — we get the largest solar energy plan in U.S. history.

And, through the despicable City Charter amendment element of Measure B, we give the mayor and the City Council the absolute power to channel the billions of dollars in public money that’s involved to anyone they want without even the slightest meaningful safeguard or oversight.

If by some miracle, we “fringe activists” are able to awaken the sleeping and distracted populace and muster some small change out of their pockets and defeat Measure B, we get the largest solar energy plan in U.S. history anyway.

That’s because the DWP and the IBEW that runs it have committed themselves to this initiative as long as they hold a monopoly on ownership of the rooftop solar units and all the work of installing and maintaining them.

They can — and will — enact this exact same policy or a worse one immediately after the election if Measure B fails.

The only difference is that the mayor and council will have to do their dirty work behind the scenes and let the DWP Board of Commissioners — which they have weakened to the point of irrelevance — do the actual channeling all those billions into the pockets of the special interests who have helped turn what used to pass for a democratic government into a political machine.

So why do we fight if the outcome is already certain?

We fight because we must to keep hope alive that somehow, some way, some day, we can help bring a semblance of democracy in L.A., that people in every part of the city will be engaged and able to affect the public policy and to come together to create a civic culture that gives life to our shared belief in the dream of L.A. as a place of boundless possibilities for everyone, a city where people have come from all over the world to become all that they can be.

We fight on and hope and that we can end the corruption before it’s too late, before the disparity between rich and poor becomes so great and those in the middle so few that L.A. is beyond saving. The question is how much time do we have left before that happens.

We fight because if we can defeat Measure B, we will have the chance to force them to bring the community into a process that can produce a real solar energy that gets most most electricity at the lowest cost in the fastest time.

We fight because if we win they will be put on notice that the people are waking up and getting organized and their days are numbered.

Bruno, the L.A Watchdog: “I Weep for L.A.”

By Bruno
L.A.’s Watchdog

Judging from some the reaction I get from my fans, Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bruno4.JPGsome of you think I’m one mean, sarcastic son of a bitch. You’re partly right, that’s for sure. And maybe they’re all right sometimes. I do take canine liberties.

But this morning as I walked over to the Dog Trainer to, well, train, I read only two stories. Then I wandered to a quiet corner and wept — for you humans and the city you try to make home.

Less than a mile from our house, at an old bowling alley on a busy corner,  James Shamp, the father of two who served four years in the US Army, was shot to death last month because he was black. He worked there and was taking out the garbage.

On another page, columnist Patt Morrison reminded me that Antonio has no intention of debating his opponents in his bid re-election.

Something’s terribly wrong.

According to an unusually well-written story, the kind The Trainer does infrequently these dog days:

At the Canoga Park Bowl, everyone knew James Shamp.

His job was to clean, but he did so much more. Bowlers described him as a comedian and their loyal cheerleader. He greeted regulars with a big handshake followed by a succession of jokes that would continue through their games.

“He was the black Chevy Chase,” said Robert Battle, a member of the Equally Offensive bowling team. .

Three days before Christmas, Shamp was taking out some trash to the dumpsters behind the bowling alley when a car pulled up. According to police, a group of Latino gang members approached and shot Shamp, 48, in the chest. Friends heard the shots and ran outside, where they found Shamp lying face down. He died at a hospital.

Los Angeles police detectives and prosecutors allege the gang members targeted Shamp because he was African American. The three suspects were each charged last week with one count of murder and conspiracy to commit a crime because of race.

The schools fail at educating your children and 10 bucks says the scumbags that killed James Shamp dropped out in 10th grade, if they went at all.

And the mayor won’t debate.


Your streets are choked with traffic and taking your son to
baseball practice or your daughter to dance class – or just getting to the
bloody super market — becomes an exercise in frustration.

 

And the mayor won’t debate.

 

Simple billboards, which were always ugly, but at least
common, have now become light shows that can probably be seen from outer space
and keep you awake at night.

 

And the mayor won’t debate.

 

In the name of the environment, the mayor conspires with a
union to foist upon you a solar plan in a plot that puts the the Sopranos to
shame.

 

And the mayor won’t debate.

 

What’s wrong with you people?  Have you become so lazy and stupid that
you’re going to let this happen?  I mean,
he’s going to win. Can’t he at least try to explain why?

 

James Shamp used to help the bowling alley’s comedian
performer, Jay Cramer, who uses a wheelchair, set up a ramp each night before
he performed. He doesn’t anymore.

 

And the mayor won’t debate.

 

Mary Mannon, who knew James Shamp, said he called the woman
bowlers “Mamas,” and would greet her with “Mary had a little lamb.”

 

“I just want to hear him say ‘mama’ one last
time,” Mannon said. “I want to hear him say ‘Mary had a little lamb.’

 

And the mayor won’t debate.

 

With a tear for all of you,

 

Woof!