Take Two: The City of LA has a noose around its neck

In the movies, there is always a conflict. Dun-dun…Duhhh!

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s rebate payment for home solar electricity installations is one of the biggest—in dollar amount—in the state of California. So why isn’t there a solar-electric system on every available roof in LA? Several solar companies offer a zero-down lease with free installation, which guarantees a lease that is cheaper than the utility bill for most Angelenos. Switching from a monthly bill to a monthly lease that saves money somehow doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

LA is getting off coal, which will lead to increased electricity prices from the grid. Those who make their own energy at home with solar-electric systems on their roofs will not be paying those price increases, and therefore will be saving money. Oh, and helping to preserve our environment as we know it.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a plan in 2009 to eliminate LADWP’s use of coal to produce electricity, because coal is the most polluting form of energy known to humanity. Also because we live on a coast with a lot of water on the other side. If you believe the worst-case scenarios of global warming’s effects, ice caps may melt enough so that sea levels rise and we experience coastal flooding.

Anybody who drives and pays attention to the road signs will be familiar with the “Tsunami Evacuation Route” signposts near LA beaches, from Malibu to Venice.  Those Tsunami signs represent the spread of property damage due to coastal flooding from global warming—the cause of which is humanity producing excessive carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, as defined by the consensus of climate scientists.

So it makes all the sense in the world for Mayor Villaraigosa to stop LA from using coal, until the City Council looks at the cheap price of the noose around the City’s neck. We are hanging ourselves by continuing to import coal from Arizona and desert regions of California (in order to burn this fossil fuel and create electricity for our homes and offices with it) when we have an overabundance of a naturally recurring source of energy that we could use guilt-free instead. The Sun shines its powerful rays over 300 days a year in LA  to make what we call “sunny days,” but in reality we can make solar electricity every day, because the Sun provides light every day. Light = Electricity…”Photovoltaic” is the same thing as “Solar Electricity.”

Once the Mayor’s office and the City Council, and the “powers that be” at LADWP, as Arash Saidi from the utility’s solar incentive program called them, gather the collective guts to cut the noose around the City’s neck, then we can create jobs and stabilize the cost of energy in LA.

“There is a disconnection between Los Angeles’ aggressive solar goals and its policies,” according to a report titled “Designing an Effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles,” published by the Los Angles Business Council and the UCLA School of Public Affairs in April 2010.

The strongest economy in the European Union, Germany, uses a “feed-in tariff.” They pay their citizens with cash money for feeding excess electricity into the utility grid. As a result, Germany is the #1 producer of solar electricity in the world. California is the top producer of solar electricity in the United States, but vying for that title is New Jersey. Neither Germany nor New Jersey has as much sunshine as California. The movie industry set up shop in LA because they could shoot outside year round due to the predictably sunny weather. The certainty of sunshine calls out for increased solar electricity in LA. A “feed-in tariff” is one way to do it.

In the Entertainment Capital of the World, we have a Mayor calling “Action!” and a City Council, as the studio executives, shutting down the production; and a utility company using almost 50 percent coal to produce our electricity while we wait to get the movie rolling again.

Once LA does eliminate coal production, we will use cleaner forms of energy, like natural gas and solar electricity. Although, natural gas still burns and produces carbon emissions in the process, while solar electricity is CO2-free.

In this tough economy, the free market needs some help from the “powers that be.” The Solar Industry could benefit from a Public Awareness Program—billboards, TV commercials, youtube videos—so that the citizens know about the state-funded rebates funneled through the utility companies and the 30% tax credit that the federal government kicked in.

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California I remember the Public Service message on the radio: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” This simple message reminded us to save water by not flushing our toilet every time. Back then we had a drought. Hey, we still do! But we also have a noose around the City’s neck, and we need to get the word out about how we are going to cut ourselves loose.

With a feed-in tariff, the city’s slogan could be “We Pay LA Sunny Money.” The noose is just a metaphor, after all. The Sun is real, though, and it is going to be around for a million more years. We can now harness the power of the Sun at no cost. Yes, solar leases and “feed-in tariffs” can provide free electricity for the majority of Angelenos.

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