DWP's solar program to relaunch in September with lower rebates
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power gave the go-ahead Tuesday to relaunch the Solar Incentive Program next month. Applications will be accepted starting Sept. 1 at 10 a.m.
The revised program is doubling its budget from $30 million to $60 million for the next three years and lowers rebates to be more in line with market pricing for residential, government, nonprofit and commercial buildings.
Funding was increased by using long-term bond financing and by decreasing incentives, which the DWP said are consistent with the California Solar Initiative and existing solar markets. Residential rebates went down from $3.24 per watt to $2.20 per watt. Officials said the lower rebates will be offset by a federal tax allowance available for solar systems.
“Now that significant tax incentives are being offered by the federal government, we have an opportunity to reduce our incentive levels to be more in line with market pricing, which should give more customers the opportunity to build solar and increase the amount of solar PV that can be built through this program,” said Aram Benyamin, DWP's senior assistant general manager.
Ethan Sprague, spokesman for solar power leasing company SunRun, said "if the new rebate levels remain as they are, the vast majority of L.A. homeowners will not be able to go solar."
"The rebate reduction DWP approved doesn’t reduce the overall SIP budget, but rather makes it smaller on a per-home basis, which will disproportionately impact the less affluent," Sprague said.
The program, funded through ratepayers, offers rebates to businesses and homeowners who generate their own electricity. It was created under the state’s “Million Solar Roofs” legislation, which requires the DWP to spend $313 million through the end of 2016.
The program was suspended in April as the demand for incentives, hovering around $112 million in rebate requests, out-paced the budget by 3 to 1. During the hiatus the department was able to catch up with a backlog of applications and identify alternative financing options.
Under the revised program, the solar program will automatically be suspended until the next fiscal year, when reservations reach the $40-million level, to ensure it stays within its budget.
Since the program began in August 2006, DWP customers have installed 35 MW under SB 1 and the department expects that an additional 25 MW will be installed during the current fiscal year.
-- Ashlie Rodriguez
Photo: Business Week