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Report sheds light on Los Angeles solar needs

Solar panels cover the rooftop of the Staples Center sports complex in Los Angeles.
Solar panels cover the rooftop of the Staples Center sports complex in Los Angeles.
David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles risks being left in the dust of the solar revolution if the city does not enact policies to create jobs for the region's trained solar workforce.

A joint study by UCLA and USC researchers showed that Los Angeles solar policy is lagging and isn't on track to meet California's goal of generating 33 percent of its power by 2020. The report, Empowering L.A.'s Solar Workforce: New Policies that Deliver Investments and Jobs, was presented at the Los Angeles Business Council's Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit.

The Los Angeles department of Water and Power trails behind most major California utility providers and generates only a sixth of the solar power per customer created by the state leader, Southern California Edison. 

There are thousands of solar workers trained in design, panel installation and sales, but the market is stagnant and the city has neglected to implement policies to grow the sector. About 2,200 solar-workers are trained each year in the county, the report said. 

Programs that promote solar jobs would benefit struggling areas of the city most, which overlap with some areas that have solar power potential. A high concentration of industrial or residential rooftops are ideal for solar panels, and many programs that train this workforce are located in these communities. The report identifies "hotspots" in the San Fernando Valley, eastern Los Angeles and regions west of downtown, such as Hollywood.

With the right program in place, Los Angeles could generate $2 billion in local investment and 16,000 job-years, the report states. 

One of the keys to employing more solar workers? Make it easier for businesses and individuals to install panels and sell excess energy back to LADWP with a solar feed-in tariff program. The solar FiT would spur private investment and would allow customers to take advantage of federal tax credits, the report said.

Los Angeles has the sun and the workforce, now it just needs the right policy.