Los Angeles DWP to relaunch Solar Incentive Program Sept. 1 [Updated]
L.A.'s Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to relaunch its Solar Incentive Program, and the Department of Water and Power will resume accepting applications for the program Sept. 1 at 10 a.m. The program was placed on hold April 9 because demand for solar incentives exceeded available funds by a factor of three to one.
"As we relaunch the Solar Incentive Program in September, it is extremely important that we leverage the incentives to achieve the most solar power and encourage as much participation as possible," DWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols said in a statement. "We also want to grow solar at a steady and sustainable pace while being prudent about the cost to all customers who pay for this program through their rates."
The DWP has increased the budget for the Solar Incentive Program to $60 million for the current fiscal year. It anticipates adding $60 million to the program annually in 2012 and 2013 as well. The $60 million in rebates over the next three years will be funded with revenue collected from ratepayers' electric bills.
For an average four-kilowatt, $32,000 solar power installation, the program previously covered up to 45% of the costs for residential buildings. Through April of this year, the Solar Incentive Program reimbursement rate was $3.25 per watt, or $13,000 for a four-kilowatt system. Starting Sept. 1, the rebate amount will be $2.00 to $2.20 per watt, with the highest rebate amount going to the most efficient systems. A four-kilowatt system with optimum orientation and no shading would be reimbursed $8,800, a less-efficient system, $8,000.
In a statement, DWP senior assistant general manager Aram Benyamin said, "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 [photovoltaic projects] that can be built through this program."
Homeowners who install solar power between now and the end of 2016 can receive a federal tax credit equal to 30% of the system's cost.
Many of the area's top solar providers, including Sungevity, SolarCity, Verengo and SunRun, oppose LADWP's revamped Solar Incentive Program. They say the reduced incentives would require homeowners who install photovoltaic systems to pay more for electricity than they would without solar panels; the payback period would also increase to as much as 14 years -- far longer than other areas in the state. [Updated 8-3-11, 1:10 p.m.: The original version of this post did not include feedback from solar installers.]
According to Nichols, "In the next few months, we will come back with more leasing options and other proposals for lower-income households."
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: Rooftop solar panels. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times