DWP will allow customers to sell back excess solar energy

The so-called feed-in-tariff program would pay customers 17 cents per kilowatt hour for energy produced on their own equipment.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers for the first time will be able to sell back excess solar energy created on rooftops and parking lots under a new program approved Friday by the city utility's board of commissioners.

Described as the largest urban rooftop solar program of its kind in the nation, the so-called feed-in-tariff program would pay customers 17 cents per kilowatt hour for energy produced on their own equipment. The DWP has already accepted more than a dozen applicants and will be taking dozens more as it accepts contracts for up to 100 megawatts of solar power through 2016.

Environmentalists, business supporters and solar vendors were thrilled by the vote. Feed-in-tariff programs help generate jobs and economic activity while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, they say.

"Today's vote is a major step forward for the economic and environmental sustainability of Los Angeles," said Mary Leslie, President of the Los Angeles Business Council, a group advocating the Clean LA Solar program since 2009.

Fred Pickel, the city's ratepayer advocate, told commissioners that 17 cents per kilowatt hour was above market rates and could force significant rate increases on DWP customers. Higher DWP bills could drive jobs away, Pickel told the board.

But the board unanimously decided to move ahead, and to reassess the program at regular intervals.

In March, the commission will decide whether to add an additional 50 megawatts of energy to the buyback program. The full 150-megawatt program would create enough solar energy to power 34,000 Los Angeles homes, advocates say.

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