Way back before Mayor Riordan fired him for being a windbag and empty 10-gallon hat, DWP General Manager David Freeman announced the largest solar energy program in U.S. history.
He spent tens of millions of dollars of ratepayer money on lobbyists, consultants, public relations manipulators and community relations operatives but the nation’s largest municipal utility never got around to building any solar energy.
Hardly a year has gone by since then that the DWP lied to the public, wasted ratepayer money and failed in one initiative after another to build enough solar energy to reduce its dependence on cheap and dirty coal for nearly half the city’s energy.
The main reason is IBEW union bully Brian D’Arcy thwarted all efforts because you don’t need his overpaid and underworked members for solar energy. That’s why they tried to extort as much as $4 billion from the public for a massive in-basin rooftop solar program that would be owned, installed and operated solely by DWP workers.
Unlike the City Council and the last two mayors who submitted to D’Arcy’s blackmail tactics in union contract talks, voters rejected the infamous Measure B.
A long time has passed since Freeman’s first solar foray and a lot of DWP general managers have come and gone and a lot of money has gone down the drain without public benefit to produce just 50 megawatts of rooftop solar, just 1 percent of the city’s energy use.
One of the main stumbling blocks was the refusal of the IBEW and DWP management to implement the only policy that has ever worked successfully anywhere to get individuals and businesses to install solar energy panels — feed-in tariffs that pay customers for the power they generate and feed into the power grid, programs that can eliminate power costs and pay for the installation in five to seven years.
On Tuesday, Councilwoman Jan Perry tried to get the City Council to review the DWP Board’s approval of a feed-in tariff policy that would pay those who install solar an average of 17 cents a kilowatt with peak demand fees reaching 35 cents — a huge premium on the 11 cents it costs on average for other sources of energy.
Rate Payer Advocate Fred Pickel was given 24 hours to review the policy when the fees were increased at the last-minute by nearly 14 percent when be believed they should have been cut by an even larger percentage.
Pickel has been undermined in repeated ways as he made clear in his gentlemanly testimony that fell on the deaf ears and dead minds of the City Council, thinks likely not giving him reports, ignoring his advice, making it hard for him to hire staff.
His position was created in the uproar over Measure B and the outrageous rate hike demands of the DWP and approved overwhelmingly by voters — points that should be remembered by anyone contemplating voting for Eric Garcetti for mayor since it was he who hid a critical report about what was wrong with Measure B and then weakened the role of the Rate Payer Advocate.
When you watch these videos you will see how Pickel is treated as if he were as irrelevant and you the ratepayers and voters and how General Manager Ron Nichols has become like all the other DWP heads who preceded — an empty suit glibly carrying the water and power for those in charge, be they union boss D’Arcy or the political machine itself.