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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

With LaBonge's help, DWP stripping Solar Rebate for itself

Anything DWP brings out the absolute worst in CD 4 candidate Tom LaBonge, likely because it was the DWP that employed him prior to joining City Hall. In any fight between the public and the DWP, it's clear where his loyalties lie.

Killing Solar Energy Hopes for LA -- The Battle to Reform the DWP

By Ron Kaye on November 12, 2010  

The problem seriously ignorant people like Tom LaBonge often have is they think everyone is as uninformed and ill-informed as they are and that no one is smart enough to understand what they're really saying in their torrent of mostly meaningless words.

Two-faced guys like Dennis Zine have a different problem. They think they can double-talk and flip-flop and sell out and nobody pays enough attention to notice.

Then, there's the passionate environmentalist and ultra-liberal Paul Koretz who cares so much about green energy he called for a compromise that would give the DWP most of what it wanted when it drastically cut rebates for rooftop solar installations even as he led the fight to take jurisdiction and overturn the policy.

The Council debate Friday on taking jurisdiction under rule 245 was almost as crazy as the DWP Commission's Nov.  2 decision to cut rebates by a third and then half and then 80 percent over the next three years.  .

There was the devious Zine demanding to know why anyone would challenge the DWP when the rogue utility is doing such a great job and LaBonge proposing the DWP abandon rooftop solar on homes and businesses and put all its efforts into greening public buildings.

Both men are hoping to get their hands on the vast amount of cash IBEW  union bully Brian D'Arcy can throw their way, an immediate concern of LaBonge's who faces a tough re-election campaign in March.

The is just one battleground in a larger war that pits then entrenched interests of the DWP which are being protected by Interim GM and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner against aroused and increasingly well-informed citizenry with the toadies and stooges on the City Council caught in middle looking for whatever cover they can find.

The decision Friday sent the solar rebate policy to the Energy and Environment Committee led by Jan Perry, who is one of the few who has shown the courage to actually stand up to the power of the DWP so it will be interesting to see what comes back to the Council.

The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It's too successful.

In 2007, California's Million Solar Roofs Law took effect, requiring the DWP to commit more than $30 million a year to funding a significant part of the cost of solar installation.

DWP provided only an average of $25 million a year since then for rebates of up to 35 percent of the cost and created a modest 23 megawatts of rooftop solar energy, tiny fraction of less than 1 percent of the city's power usage.

But solar is hot now and people with money to burn want it, in no small part because of the 30 federal tax credit, so the DWP has 1,500 applications for rebates worth more than $100 million and create 35 megawatts of solar power.

Since the DWP only budgeted $17 million for rebates this year, the solution the geniuses came up with was to virtually eliminate the whole program.

That doesn't sit well with the booming local solar energy installation industry which is creating more jobs than any other part of the economy in these hard times and sees what the DWP is up to as a deliberate attempt to kill the private solar industry.

The other side of that coin is that the DWP and D'Arcy have fought every effort to spur a private solar industry, preferring to keep the jobs inside the DWP where salaries and benefits are so spectacular and the IBEW gets a nifty percentage from every worker to help elect officials who do their bidding or destroy those who get in their way.

A decade ago, the DWP launched the largest solar initiative in U.S. history but thanks to the IBEW and gross mismanagement failed to built enough solar to power a suburban block.

A year ago, the IBEW launched its own $3 billion rooftop solar initiative, the Measure B boondoggle rejected by voters after a vigorous grassroots campaign against the $1.5 million spent by the union. Measure B was supposed to build 400 megawatts of solar with all the work being done by the DWP and IBEW.

That's what this is all about, why Zine opposed taking jurisdiction, why LaBonge wanted to keep solar installations in the hands of the DWP/IBEW by using the money from the Million Solar Roofs Law only on pubic buildings, why Koretz was looking for a weak compromise.

The real war that has been building since the mayor was foiled in his effort to get a 28 percent rate increase last spring will come to a head on Tuesday when the Council decides on a series of DWP reform measures to go on the March ballot.

The IBEW launched its attack this week on all reforms with full-page ads in the Times and Daily News claiming the Council is "rushing to place major changes to the Department of Water and Power on the March ballot without a thorough public discussion. While reform is needed, this proposal has had too little deliberation and too little public input."

Actually, there has been a great deal of public input about creating a fully independent Rate Payer Advocate and putting independent citizens with expertise on the Board of Commissioners instead of the lackeys who do the bidding of the nation's self-styled "greenest mayor in America.".

But it's far from clear that the Council has listened to the public input, preferring to look for ways to water down these proposals out of fear of a fight with the IBEW.

We'll see on Tuesday whether any of the 15 Council members deserve to hold public office.