LA Mayor Villaraigosa Announces 'Solar LA' Plan

Los Angeles city leaders want 10 percent of L.A.'s energy to come from solar power by 2020. KPCC's Molly Peterson has more.

Molly Peterson: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa toured a plant just south of downtown that makes thin-film solar installations for rooftops.

The mayor says the city's plan called "Solar L.A." aims to add 1,280 megawatts of energy from the sun to L.A.'s energy portfolio within a dozen years.

Antonio Villaraigosa: L.A. has everything it takes to make this work. We have the sun. We have the space. We have the largest municipal utility. We have the leadership and the will to make solar the engine of our energy system.

Peterson: Much of the plan's already in the works. Department of Water and Power General Manager David Nahai says his utility wants the biggest slice of Solar L.A., about 500 megawatts, to come from beyond the L.A. basin – like from large arrays under consideration in the Mojave Desert.

David Nahai: Where others see merely a legal obligation, we see an opportunity for economic stimulation and environmental stewardship. Where others see only a problem, we have found a bold solution.

Peterson: Other parts of the plan, like credits to homeowners for rooftop solar, are already in place, but may need a boost. Rebate money is running out. And getting a permit means jumping through more hoops than it used to. For example, the fire department now checks all residential solar plans. City Council President Eric Garcetti says the city could do a better job.

Eric Garcetti: Because our fire department and other departments in the permitting process have put up bureaucratic roadblocks. So a lot of installers don't want to install in Los Angeles, because we need to streamline that and make that easy for the homeowner.

Peterson: Residential and commercial projects would make up another 30 percent of the city's solar plan. And they too need approval from the City Council or Water and Power commissioners. Garcetti says the last piece of the plan needs voter approval to make it stick.

Garcetti: About a third of this initiative would be a jobs program that would provide solar power in the basin on rooftops and land we own in Southern California. So 400 megawatts would be from city jobs, good paying jobs, but also from power we own and operate.

Peterson: The initiative is slated for the March ballot – the same time Mayor Villaraigosa and several council members, including Garcetti, come up for re-election. Cost estimates for both the initiative and Solar L.A. are expected in February.