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Killing Solar Energy Hopes for LA — The Battle to Reform the DWP

The problem seriously ignorant people like Tom LaBonge often have is they think everyone is as uninformed and ill-informed as they are and that no one is smart enough to understand what they’re really saying in their torrent of mostly meaningless words.

Two-faced guys like Dennis Zine have a different problem. They think they can double-talk and flip-flop and sell out and nobody pays enough attention to notice.

Then, there’s the passionate environmentalist and ultra-liberal Paul Koretz who cares so much about green energy he called for a compromise that would give the DWP most of what it wanted when it drastically cut rebates for rooftop solar installations even as he led the fight to take jurisdiction and overturn the policy.

The Council debate Friday on taking jurisdiction under rule 245 was almost as crazy as the DWP Commission’s Nov.  2 decision to cut rebates by a third and then half and then 80 percent over the next three years.  .

There was the devious Zine demanding to know why anyone would challenge the DWP when the rogue utility is doing such a great job and LaBonge proposing the DWP abandon rooftop solar on homes and businesses and put all its efforts into greening public buildings.

Both men are hoping to get their hands on the vast amount of cash IBEW  union bully Brian D’Arcy can throw their way, an immediate concern of LaBonge’s who faces a tough re-election campaign in March.

The is just one battleground in a larger war that pits then entrenched interests of the DWP which are being protected by Interim GM and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner against aroused and increasingly well-informed citizenry with the toadies and stooges on the City Council caught in middle looking for whatever cover they can find.

The decision Friday sent the solar rebate policy to the Energy and Environment Committee led by Jan Perry, who is one of the few who has shown the courage to actually stand up to the power of the DWP so it will be interesting to see what comes back to the Council.

The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It’s too successful.

In 2007, California’s Million Solar Roofs Law took effect, requiring the DWP to commit more than $30 million a year to funding a significant part of the cost of solar installation.

DWP provided only an average of $25 million a year since then for rebates of up to 35 percent of the cost and created a modest 23 megawatts of rooftop solar energy, tiny fraction of less than 1 percent of the city’s power usage.
 
But solar is hot now and people with money to burn want it, in no small part because of the 30 federal tax credit, so the DWP has 1,500 applications for rebates worth more than $100 million and create 35 megawatts of solar power.

Since the DWP only budgeted $17 million for rebates this year, the solution the geniuses came up with was to virtually eliminate the whole program.

That doesn’t sit well with the booming local solar energy installation industry which is creating more jobs than any other part of the economy in these hard times and sees what the DWP is up to as a deliberate attempt to kill the private solar industry.

The other side of that coin is that the DWP and D’Arcy have fought every effort to spur a private solar industry, preferring to keep the jobs inside the DWP where salaries and benefits are so spectacular and the IBEW gets a nifty percentage from every worker to help elect officials who do their bidding or destroy those who get in their way.

A decade ago, the DWP launched the largest solar initiative in U.S. history but thanks to the IBEW and gross mismanagement failed to built enough solar to power a suburban block.

A year ago, the IBEW launched its own $3 billion rooftop solar initiative, the Measure B boondoggle rejected by voters after a vigorous grassroots campaign against the $1.5 million spent by the union. Measure B was supposed to build 400 megawatts of solar with all the work being done by the DWP and IBEW.

That’s what this is all about, why Zine opposed taking jurisdiction, why LaBonge wanted to keep solar installations in the hands of the DWP/IBEW by using the money from the Million Solar Roofs Law only on pubic buildings, why Koretz was looking for a weak compromise.

The real war that has been building since the mayor was foiled in his effort to get a 28 percent rate increase last spring will come to a head on Tuesday when the Council decides on a series of DWP reform measures to go on the March ballot.

The IBEW launched its attack this week on all reforms with full-page ads in the Times and Daily News claiming the Council is “rushing to place major changes to the Department of Water and Power on the March ballot without a thorough public discussion. While reform is needed, this proposal has had too little deliberation and too little public input.”

Actually, there has been a great deal of public input about creating a fully independent Rate Payer Advocate and putting independent citizens with expertise on the Board of Commissioners instead of the lackeys who do the bidding of the nation’s self-styled “greenest mayor in America.”.
 
But it’s far from clear that the Council has listened to the public input, preferring to look for ways to water down these proposals out of fear of a fight with the IBEW.

We’ll see on Tuesday whether any of the 15 Council members deserve to hold public office.Enhanced by Zemanta

This entry was posted in Community Activists, DWP, Hot Topics, Los Angeles, Solar Energy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Killing Solar Energy Hopes for LA — The Battle to Reform the DWP

  1. Anonymous says:

    As a use of public/ratepayer dollars, it makes no sense to subsidise individual homeowners with PV panels. The city is gaining what? The ROI is so small it is practically incalcuable. Those public dollars should be for the greater public good, like infastructure upgrades or public safety. It only makes sense to the people that say that we must save the environment – or union jobs – “at any cost”.

  2. Bob G says:

    The key to getting lots of solar panels installed on private roof tops is a system (used successfully in lots of other places) where the power company or government pays you a good price for any electricity you feed through into the grid. It’s called a feedthrough tariff for that reason, and it has been shown to work nicely in motivating homeowners to put up solar power.
    At the risk of agreeing with Walter and other people here, the fact that the city of Los Angeles has never talked seriously about the feed through tariff demonstrates that the leadership are not actually interested in green power per se. If they were, they would have adopted a generous feed through tariff system five or six years ago and we would be awash in solar electricity.
    PS: Supporting a feedthrough tariff of x cents per kWH (we would have to look up the proper number) would be another platform item for Clean Sweep if it wants to get serious about changing LA. Add that to full public financing of city council elections, and you have a pretty good reform package. Add a 12 year wage freeze on the DWP and you have a really excellent reform package. I’ll leave it to Ron and the rest as to why you aren’t doing this.

  3. Walter Moore says:

    9:07 –
    The premise of all these programs is that it is in the public interest to rely more on solar, and less on hydrocarbons. One rationale is “global warming.” Another is reducing the strategic importance of middle-Eastern oil.
    Setting aside the issue of whether the premise is right or wrong, the policy question becomes: What is the best way to promote the use of solar power?
    Subsidizing private purchases from private providers is efficient, because vendors have to compete with one another to deliver the best value to customers who, after all, are still spending their own money.
    By contrast, granting the DWP a monopoly eliminates the efficiencies of competition. On the contrary, the incentive of the union is not maximum efficiency, but instead to maximize the number of union man-hours spent on any project, for as long as possible, at as high a price as possible. The DWP is spending your and my money, so they really don’t care whether we get value for our money.

  4. anonymous says:

    Even with the union opposing the rate payer advocate(and I understand why anyone would be for it if IBEW is not), I’m opposed to this position. Whoever funds (or appoints) the position will be the individual “advocated.” I just don’t see any way around it. As long as campaigns receive large amounts of money from corporate(union and private sector) interests, this advocate will be swayed to vote/opine/lobby according to one(s) who put her/him in the position. My guess is IBEW sees this as more money they’ll have to pay to get their way.
    With our luck, they’ll discontinue a few more city services to fund the positions.
    PS ‘Too bad there isn’t a nonprofit group to help fund residents to install solar AND a private contractor to hook us up. I guess that’s not what our elected officials meant when they said “dream with me.”

  5. Anonymous says:

    “The key to getting lots of solar panels installed on private roof tops is a system (used successfully in lots of other places) where the power company or government pays you a good price for any electricity you feed through into the grid. It’s called a feedthrough tariff for that reason, and it has been shown to work nicely in motivating homeowners to put up solar power.”
    It’s called a Feed-In Tariff, and it would have been subsidized by the rate hikes had they gone through in full. Rate hikes failed so no FIT.
    “The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It’s too successful.”
    No, the specific reason is there’s no budget to subsidize a rebate that’s already twice as much as what Edison offers its customers.

  6. anonymous says:

    1:45 PM wrote:
    It’s called a Feed-In Tariff, and it would have been subsidized by the rate hikes had they gone through in full. Rate hikes failed so no FIT.
    “The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It’s too successful.”
    No, the specific reason is there’s no budget to subsidize a rebate that’s already twice as much as what Edison offers its customers
    ————————————————
    Fine–then don’t raise the rates and subsidize a rebate that’s equal to Edison’s. I’m cool with that.
    How many “laid off” employees went over to DWP in the last year?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The idea of Zine the two-face being Controller “because I question everything” is terrifying!
    He also tied himself to Cooley’s coatttails with his puppet Carmen the Clown, the Republican trio, and whether Cooley wins or loses he realizes that his Clown dragged him down and so would Zine. Anyway the same group that pushed him into office with their concerted lobbying and manipulating at least one debate has started a website to monitor all of HIS lies and flip-flops so Zine BEWARE.
    I agree with you Ron, on the basic premise, that it’s foolish and short-sighted of this allegedly pro-green Council to cut and eliminate the rebates for solar. I was just considering it myself, was swayed by all those Ed Asner ads that if your electric bills are over $110/month you’ll come out ahead with the rebates. But now it sounds like some who convert for the rebates will end up getting gypped by the city. Gee, that would be a first!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Dennis Zine asks the DWP Rep why should we 245 this. What? Why should Mr. Zine object to a 245? This is why we need an independent person not only for the Rate Payer Advocate but also as Michael Cohen points out for at least one of the Commissioners.
    Zine is proving that the City Council neglects their oversight responsibility.

  9. Bob G says:

    Thanks for the correction. Yes, the usual term is “feed in tariff.” There are a couple of points. The financing, if a homeowner needs it, is provided by the private sector — banks are the place to go for home loans. Construction is also provided by the private sector. This is the way to go if you wish to allow for competitive pricing on both construction and financing.
    The advantages to the ratepayer (to the extent that they exist) involve the fact that the city or its surrogate, the DWP, doesn’t have to invest in as much capital expenditure, because electric production capacity is created diffusely in a non-governmental way.
    The disadvantages to the ratepayer (to the extent that they exist) involve the fact that the DWP or the public sector will probably end up subsidizing the private solar photovoltaic system for a while, because the amount of money the DWP pays through that feed in tariff has to be set a little high at the start in order to inspire public interest, and it has to be maintained at the promised level for at least a decade or two because that is the amount of time that installed systems will take to recoup their installation costs.
    There are a couple of reasons that subsidizing widescale private installations may be a good thing, and they have little to do with smog or environmentalism per se. The main point is that fossil fuels — in particular petroleum, but also natural gas — are going to get used up, coal is a pollution issue, and the prices of fossil fuels are going to go up over time.
    But global climate change is a huge issue, and to suggest that it is not a risk is to raise doubts about your own credibility — are you suggesting that everything we know about the IR absorption spectrum of water vapor and CO2 is wrong? At best we can hope to be very, very lucky, but that hardly sounds like a conservative approach in the true sense of the word.
    But to get back to the original topic: If one goal is to create a more “green” system of electric generation, defined as nonpolluting, non-fossil fuel driven, more-or-less renewable, then solar photovoltaic is one possible part of the solution. The fact that there is a financial approach that works well, and pretty much in the absence of government construction, but our mayor and city council won’t even whisper its name, all suggest that they aren’t really interested in green per se. I think we can agree on that.

  10. Bob G says:

    It’s important that any rooftop solar rig be constructed so as to be safe for the homeowner and for the neighbors, and that the electrical components and wiring also be done to the proper level of specifications. But it’s not different in principle from all the other requirements in the building code for wiring and attachment to the electrical grid. The city or state could certify licensed electricians to sign off on solar photovoltaic installations, the components that go into them could be pre-certified through the manufacturer, and the new kind of electrical meter (not really new in lots of other places!) would replace the old one.
    There’s nothing remotely radical about any of this, so I conclude that the only thing standing in its way is politics. As soon as a few hundred people start going to those meetings the mayor is holding with neighborhood council members, and start talking about this at city council meetings, the heat will go up a little. I don’t know whether it will be enough to push the established monopoly back a step and allow for something useful to happen, but it’s worth a try.
    One thing that is truly disappointing in our age is the failure of the mass media to push stories like this.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sandy Sand, shouldn’t you be off somewhere writing more op-ed pieces about how Muslims should be shaving off their beards? Leave the local politics to those of us who know what we’re talking about.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I agree with Sandy. Let’s get back on topic about the bully Brian D’Arcy and his goons. Its a shame in this day and age we have no real leaders. What happened to the days of a Robert or John F. Kennedy speaking out for the little people, or Martin Luther King Jr., the sad reality is our youth don’t have any leaders that are role models. WE don’t have any leaders in our society and don’t get me started on the losers in office now in LA. I don’t ever remember in the history of this city so much anger and hate towards our politicians for ruining our City and continuing to allow it to go down the toliet. LA will never be the great City it use to be with these clowns and Mayor

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Killing Solar Energy Hopes for LA — The Battle to Reform the DWP

The problem seriously ignorant people like Tom LaBonge often have is they think everyone is as uninformed and ill-informed as they are and that no one is smart enough to understand what they’re really saying in their torrent of mostly meaningless words.

Two-faced guys like Dennis Zine have a different problem. They think they can double-talk and flip-flop and sell out and nobody pays enough attention to notice.

Then, there’s the passionate environmentalist and ultra-liberal Paul Koretz who cares so much about green energy he called for a compromise that would give the DWP most of what it wanted when it drastically cut rebates for rooftop solar installations even as he led the fight to take jurisdiction and overturn the policy.

The Council debate Friday on taking jurisdiction under rule 245 was almost as crazy as the DWP Commission’s Nov.  2 decision to cut rebates by a third and then half and then 80 percent over the next three years.  .

There was the devious Zine demanding to know why anyone would challenge the DWP when the rogue utility is doing such a great job and LaBonge proposing the DWP abandon rooftop solar on homes and businesses and put all its efforts into greening public buildings.

Both men are hoping to get their hands on the vast amount of cash IBEW  union bully Brian D’Arcy can throw their way, an immediate concern of LaBonge’s who faces a tough re-election campaign in March.

The is just one battleground in a larger war that pits then entrenched interests of the DWP which are being protected by Interim GM and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner against aroused and increasingly well-informed citizenry with the toadies and stooges on the City Council caught in middle looking for whatever cover they can find.

The decision Friday sent the solar rebate policy to the Energy and Environment Committee led by Jan Perry, who is one of the few who has shown the courage to actually stand up to the power of the DWP so it will be interesting to see what comes back to the Council.

The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It’s too successful.

In 2007, California’s Million Solar Roofs Law took effect, requiring the DWP to commit more than $30 million a year to funding a significant part of the cost of solar installation.

DWP provided only an average of $25 million a year since then for rebates of up to 35 percent of the cost and created a modest 23 megawatts of rooftop solar energy, tiny fraction of less than 1 percent of the city’s power usage.
 
But solar is hot now and people with money to burn want it, in no small part because of the 30 federal tax credit, so the DWP has 1,500 applications for rebates worth more than $100 million and create 35 megawatts of solar power.

Since the DWP only budgeted $17 million for rebates this year, the solution the geniuses came up with was to virtually eliminate the whole program.

That doesn’t sit well with the booming local solar energy installation industry which is creating more jobs than any other part of the economy in these hard times and sees what the DWP is up to as a deliberate attempt to kill the private solar industry.

The other side of that coin is that the DWP and D’Arcy have fought every effort to spur a private solar industry, preferring to keep the jobs inside the DWP where salaries and benefits are so spectacular and the IBEW gets a nifty percentage from every worker to help elect officials who do their bidding or destroy those who get in their way.

A decade ago, the DWP launched the largest solar initiative in U.S. history but thanks to the IBEW and gross mismanagement failed to built enough solar to power a suburban block.

A year ago, the IBEW launched its own $3 billion rooftop solar initiative, the Measure B boondoggle rejected by voters after a vigorous grassroots campaign against the $1.5 million spent by the union. Measure B was supposed to build 400 megawatts of solar with all the work being done by the DWP and IBEW.

That’s what this is all about, why Zine opposed taking jurisdiction, why LaBonge wanted to keep solar installations in the hands of the DWP/IBEW by using the money from the Million Solar Roofs Law only on pubic buildings, why Koretz was looking for a weak compromise.

The real war that has been building since the mayor was foiled in his effort to get a 28 percent rate increase last spring will come to a head on Tuesday when the Council decides on a series of DWP reform measures to go on the March ballot.

The IBEW launched its attack this week on all reforms with full-page ads in the Times and Daily News claiming the Council is “rushing to place major changes to the Department of Water and Power on the March ballot without a thorough public discussion. While reform is needed, this proposal has had too little deliberation and too little public input.”

Actually, there has been a great deal of public input about creating a fully independent Rate Payer Advocate and putting independent citizens with expertise on the Board of Commissioners instead of the lackeys who do the bidding of the nation’s self-styled “greenest mayor in America.”.
 
But it’s far from clear that the Council has listened to the public input, preferring to look for ways to water down these proposals out of fear of a fight with the IBEW.

We’ll see on Tuesday whether any of the 15 Council members deserve to hold public office.Enhanced by Zemanta

This entry was posted in Community Activists, DWP, Hot Topics, Los Angeles, Solar Energy. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Killing Solar Energy Hopes for LA — The Battle to Reform the DWP

  1. Double talking Super Z and his absolute lack of knowledge of the economics of DWP and solar energy makes him unqualified to be Controller.
    He fails to understand that a well funded, empowered, and truly independent Office of Public Accountability, which includes both the Ratepayers Advocate and the Inspector General, will save Ratepayers billions over the next 10 years.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Zine should (re)Zine from public office. Everyone that can SHOULD leave L.A. and go live elsewhere. Vote with your feet, as voting against this DWP machine is a total waste of time and effort.

  3. Sandy Sand says:

    Let’s not forget the little-known fact revealed by a DWP customer in a letter to the Daily News a while back that he had solar panels installed by an outside contractor and approved by DWP and DWP still kept foot-dragging on hooking him up to the power grid.
    With those DWP guys it really is their way or the highway!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The only way to change things is for people to get involved and use the Internet (the world’s most inexpensive printing press) to inform voters why it is necessary to vote against the IBEW machine. The IBEW has money that makes candidates fear them and kow tow to them. The people have the Internet — a way to forge a new trust with community voters.
    In an ideal world, we would not have a U.S. Supreme Court misinterpreting the First Amendment by saying the mere expenditure of money is protected speech in political campaigns. These rulings over the last 30 years have changed the political landscape by giving unions and business too much power in electioneering. Politicians, at least the decent ones, hate having to raise so much money. Publicly financed campaigns with the prohibition on outside expenditures just makes sense. However, the entrenched interests, inlcuing the IBEW scum, that have seized our governments by the throat refuse to let go. The people have to use the Internet to get around the IBEW voice during elections.

  5. Walter Moore says:

    The DWP is gutting the rebate program to hurt free-market competitors, and to promote its plan to monopolize the industry as much as possible in L.A.
    Yours truly wrote about it on November 5:
    http://waltermooresays.blogspot.com/2010/11/power-politics-solar-power-politics.html

  6. Walter Moore says:

    P.S. Until yesterday, I opposed creation of a DWP rate-payer advocate position. After all, we’ve got 15 City Council Members and a Mayor whom we pay to be our advocates.
    THEN I heard that the union is funding opposition to creation of the position. That’s all I needed to hear — to switch sides.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As a use of public/ratepayer dollars, it makes no sense to subsidise individual homeowners with PV panels. The city is gaining what? The ROI is so small it is practically incalcuable. Those public dollars should be for the greater public good, like infastructure upgrades or public safety. It only makes sense to the people that say that we must save the environment – or union jobs – “at any cost”.

  8. Bob G says:

    The key to getting lots of solar panels installed on private roof tops is a system (used successfully in lots of other places) where the power company or government pays you a good price for any electricity you feed through into the grid. It’s called a feedthrough tariff for that reason, and it has been shown to work nicely in motivating homeowners to put up solar power.
    At the risk of agreeing with Walter and other people here, the fact that the city of Los Angeles has never talked seriously about the feed through tariff demonstrates that the leadership are not actually interested in green power per se. If they were, they would have adopted a generous feed through tariff system five or six years ago and we would be awash in solar electricity.
    PS: Supporting a feedthrough tariff of x cents per kWH (we would have to look up the proper number) would be another platform item for Clean Sweep if it wants to get serious about changing LA. Add that to full public financing of city council elections, and you have a pretty good reform package. Add a 12 year wage freeze on the DWP and you have a really excellent reform package. I’ll leave it to Ron and the rest as to why you aren’t doing this.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who is force-feeding Tom La Bonge information the sun. Guess what Mr. La Bonge you voted and rallied with the Mayor’s idea (now a State mandate which was blessed by the Council) of having solar.
    So what are you talking about now?
    The choice is simple. How can other Utilities help subsidize decentralized solar power on customer’s roofs? And how can other utilities extend Refrigerator rebates to all of their customers?

  10. Anonymous says:

    “Fine–then don’t raise the rates and subsidize a rebate that’s equal to Edison’s. I’m cool with that.”
    Even with the 30% decrease in the rebate that Ron’s equates with killing solar, you still get your wish. DWP’s rebate will still be higher than Edison’s

  11. anonymous says:

    Thanks Bob G on the clarification. My thing with the private contractor isn’t the installation. That’s a no brainer. It’s about the issue Sandy brought up. If DWP drags their feet on hooking up to the power grid, there needs to a some sort of recourse like outsourcing that work.
    Though, with all the transfers over there and watching 40 some DWP workers hang out at a work sight (not standing guard if someone falls in a hole or something), it makes me wonder what the reason is for the delays.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Sandy Sand, shouldn’t you be off somewhere writing more op-ed pieces about how Muslims should be shaving off their beards? Leave the local politics to those of us who know what we’re talking about.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Liars, cheats, felons, and rats. That’s what makes up the 15 heads of the horsehoe beast at City Hall. And you birdbrains (no offense to Janice Moron-Hahn) are thinking about voting for their charter stuff? Are you all nuts? VOTE NO ON ANYTHING THESE THIEVES WRITE UP.

  14. Sandy Sand says:

    Anonymous 7:25, you poor misguided nameless person. Your out-of-left-field attack is funny. Get a life! You obviously have far too much time on your hands for Web surfing and Google searching.
    You managed to dredge up something I wrote about Muslims (or any ethnic group) becoming “one with Americans” since they are chosing to live here and not in their native country with their native customs that I wrote 22 months ago in an obscure e-zine and has absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand, except to attack for the sake of attacking.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Sandy Sand, apparently Muslims bothered you enough that you had to write an op-ed piece ripping them for how they look and telling them to leave their religion at home. That’s pretty disturbing and tells me a lot about your worldview

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