Voters lack crucial cost information on solar initiative
IT’S about time that Los Angeles get some sunshine.
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.
And maybe we are. City leaders have not provided reassurance to the
contrary. Last fall, the city’s chief legislative analyst – who
scrutinizes proposals and advises the council – hired PA Consulting to
give an independent assessment of the solar initiative.
report back was very skeptical. PA called the initiative “extremely
risky” and figured that the DWP would need to triple a renewable energy
surcharge on customers’ electricity bills to cover the cost of the
But Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller and City
Council President Eric Garcetti kept the report secret until after the
council voted to put the measure on the ballot, and then the two
discredited PA Consulting’s findings as too “quick and dirty” to be
Instead, the DWP hired Huron Consulting to analyze the
proposal and produce its own cost analysis. But that report won’t be
available until the first week in February (assuming that it’s not
delayed or hidden from the public), which is the same week absentee
ballots are mailed out and four weeks before the election. That’s not a
lot of time to vet a multibillion-dollar proposal, and it certainly
doesn’t give experts or critics much time to poke holes in the proposal.
Maybe that’s the point.
appalling that city leaders pushed to get a measure on the ballot
without saying or knowing how much it’s going to cost Angelenos. Worse,
that detailed financial information or vetting will not be contained in
the ballot information and arguments, which already had gone to print.
Angelenos who rely on the official voter guides will have no idea what
this solar plan will cost. What happens if Huron reaches the same
conclusion as PA Consulting? The measure is still on the ballot and
voters will not know that the initiative is a risky, costly scheme.
the transparency? Where is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who told the
Daily News in 2006, “Accountability and transparency are fundamental to
Ah, yes, that was before his buddies in the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers proposed this ballot
measure, which will fund a solar academy to train new IBEW members on
the taxpayers’ dime. (Not coincidentally, the IBEW has dumped thousands
of dollars into this measure to get it passed). And IBEW members at the
DWP happen to be among the best-paid city workers, and nabbed a 5.9
percent raise last year during a recession.
It seems like civic
leaders are hoping voters won’t ask too many questions and simply punch
yes on a feel-good environmental measure.
But it sure won’t feel
good in a couple of years if ratepayers are hit with higher bills to
pay for a solar program that may or may not deliver the energy Los