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LADWP to Relaunch Solar Incentive Program on Sept. 1, 2011

Under a plan approved by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners yesterday, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will relaunch its Solar Incentive Program with double the budget for the next three years.  Promising a faster and more transparent customer experience, LADWP will resume accepting applications for solar incentives starting Sept. 1, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.

In anticipation of resumed solar installations, Open Neighborhoods has issued a Request for Proposals from area installers to provide a group discount on up to 1 Megawatt of residential, commercial, multi-tenant and other solar installations throughout Los Angeles County.  A selected installer will be announced by the end of August.  Interested participants can preregister at www.openneighborhoods.net.

The LADWP program had been placed on temporary hold April 9, as the demand for incentives was far outpacing the available budget by about 3 to 1. The suspension was initiated to catch up with a backlog of applications and solar inspections; increase customer education to address safety concerns; gain input on improving the program; and identify alternative financing options.

Under SB 1, the state’s “Million Solar Roofs” legislation established a goal of 280 megawatts and mandated that LADWP spend $313 million through the end of 2016 for solar photovoltaic incentives. “We are committed to spending the full $313 million for customer incentives and achieving as much solar as possible with that level of funding,” Mr. Nichols said.

In an effort to speed up the rate of solar installations in the City, LADWP has doubled the budget for incentive payments to $60 million in the current fiscal year and anticipates requesting an additional $60 million per year in each of the next two fiscal years.  This is made possible by using long-term bond financing to lower the program’s annual budget impact.

Under the revised program, LADWP will suspend the program when new reservations reach the $40 million level until the next fiscal year.  This will ensure the program stays on a steady pace, within its annual budget, while allowing applications already approved and in the pipeline to proceed.

Since the program began in August 2006, LADWP 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. An additional 35 MW in confirmed incentives is reserved and pending installation by customers and their installers for a program total of 95 MW of installed and pending Solar PV in the City.

The revamped program will utilize an online, automated application tool, “PowerClerk,” designed to streamline the customer experience and increase transparency of the process. “A customer will register and apply for the incentive online, then be able to track their application throughout the entire process,” said Mr. Benyamin said. “At any given time, the customer will know where they stand in the process.”

The new guidelines set an annual reservation limit of $40 million per year. To address concerns, LADWP will provide frequent online updates to show the running total of reservation requests so that installers and customers will be able to monitor reservation requests.

Participants will have up to 60 days after receiving a confirmation on their solar incentive reservations to submit their building permit and also have the ability to request an extension.

LADWP will monitor the incentive levels and modify them if participation dips too low.

The incentive levels for leased residential systems will be lowered to match those for commercial systems. Officials said this change is appropriate because leased systems benefit from a federal tax allowance for an accelerated depreciation of a solar installation. Purchased residential or governmental systems cannot take advantage of accelerated depreciation.

LADWP also modified proposed measures to address installers and customers activating their systems prior to LADWP inspection and approval.

For further information and to view the revised SIP guidelines, please visit www.ladwp.com/solar.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s largest municipal utility, provides reliable, low-cost water and power services to Los Angeles residents and businesses in an environmentally responsible manner. LADWP serves about 1.4 million electric customers and 680,000 water customers in Los Angeles.

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