LA’s Feed-in Tariff Could Go Farther to Tap the City’s Vast Rooftop Solar Potential and Help Disadvantaged Communities


A new report finds that LA’s feed-in tariff, also known as CLEAN LA Solar, could go further to take advantage of the abundant sun and rooftop space in the city. Increasing the program size would also benefit disadvantaged communities.

LA’s feed-in tariff (FIT) has already been hailed as a resounding success. But a new report says a lot more can be done in the sunny California city.

In fact, the report finds, a significantly expanded commercial rooftop solar program in Los Angeles would create thousands of new jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, with particular benefit to residents living in traditionally underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The joint USC/UCLA study, Sharing Solar’s Promise: Harnessing LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity, was conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Business Council Institute.


The report calls for the LADWP’s current FIT program, also known as CLEAN LA Solar, to be expanded from 100 to 600 MW. The CLEAN LA Solar program allows local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate.


Expanding the program to 600 MW, according to the report, will help Los Angeles achieve a state mandate to generate a third of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.


The program should also include incentives for solar developers and property owners to focus much of that growth in low-income communities — where, it turns out, solar potential is among the best in the city. The report also recommends that incentives be provided to companies that hire disadvantaged workers to install the solar systems.


The report proposes streamlining the FIT application process where possible, which includes moving the permitting process online for commercial, industrial, and multifamily rooftop solar projects. Together, those make up 69% of LA County’s solar potential. It also outlines strategies to expedite the processing of smaller commercial projects, which tend to have greater local economic development and job creation benefits for the local community.


Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have concluded that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, enough to support a FIT far larger than the 600 MW program recommended by the new report. Over 40% of the current CLEAN LA Solar project applications are located in Los Angeles’ solar equity “hot spots,” or neighborhoods with abundant rooftop space for solar installations and also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment.


“It’s very encouraging to see that FIT applications are rolling in from across the city, particularly low-income neighborhoods where the environmental and economic benefits are so important,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC PERE and one of the report’s authors, in a press release today. “Significant growth of the CLEAN LA Solar program is absolutely achievable, which is why we were so encouraged by Mayor Garcetti’s expression of support in his budget message for expanding in-basin solar generation to 600 megawatts,” he added.


“The CLEAN LA Solar FIT program is paving the way to secure our city’s future as a statewide and national leader in solar production, helping our environment and economy alike,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I applaud this program’s successful efforts to direct our abundant supply of sunshine to support local business and workforce development while reducing our carbon footprint.”


“Rooftop solar on commercial buildings is a critical piece of Los Angeles’ economic development strategy which is why we’ve worked so hard to see the FIT realized,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “Our CLEAN LA Coalition, including the Sierra Club and leading business, civic and other environmental and community-based organizations, is confident that an expanded FIT will place Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean energy movement in urban America, while spurring long-term economic benefits locally.”