“Go Solar L.A.” Incentive Program Scheduled to Relaunch with Revised Incentive Levels and Streamlined Customer Service

LADWP will relaunch its Solar Incentive Program (SIP) next month with double the budget for the next three years, a faster and more transparent customer experience, and revised incentive levels that are more in line with market pricing and allow greater participation. LADWP will resume accepting applications for solar incentives starting September 1, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.

The program had been placed on temporary hold since 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 (MW) and mandated that LADWP spend $313 million through the end of 2016 for solar photovoltaic (PV) 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,” said LADWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols.

Under the new guidelines, the incentive levels were revised to be consistent with the California Solar Initiative, which is better aligned with existing solar markets and achieves a reasonable payback period for customers. LADWP will continue to offer the option of assigning the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) to LADWP and receiving an additional $0.40 per watt—which makes the incentive significantly higher than the state minimum.

Also to encourage more solar and benefit more customers, LADWP has increased 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. The higher budget for incentives allows more solar to be built faster.

Since the program began in August 2006, LADWP customers have installed 35 MW under SB 1 and LADWP 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. Customers will register and apply for the incentive online, then be able to track their application at any given time throughout the entire process.

The revised guidelines were modified to address comments received from over 400 people who participated in a series of outreach meetings conducted last month. In response, the LADWP revised the proposed guidelines to create more transparency and more flexibility, including:

• The new guidelines set an annual reservation limit of $40 million per year. When the limit is reached, the program will be suspended for new reservations until the next fiscal 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.

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