Rentseekers of Los Angeles

In the latest chapter of the “Rentseekers” of Big Energy stifling growth in the disruptive rooftop solar industry, consider for a moment the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which is trying to change the rules on rooftop solar customers in the middle of the game.

Since 2009, thousands of LADWP’s customers have signed lease agreements with third-party providers and had systems installed. These contracts were approved by DWP. Now, LADWP is trying to force hundreds of the city’s most recent solar customers to re-sign their contracts, attempting to force solar companies to insert amended language even though the utility acknowledges they had approved the contracts on no less than three separate occasions.

On precisely none of those occasions did their reviewers catch what they suddenly perceive to be language that may in fact violate their own standards for contract language.

By slowing the progress of solar energy and creating such a difficult consumer and business experience, LADWP is acting in direct contrast to the city’s goals for solar growth. Regardless, without re-signed contracts, LADWP says it will not allow these customers to interconnect their solar systems to the grid. This prevents them from accessing the benefits of local, clean power, and from lowering their electricity bills.  

The re-signing process has been extremely confusing and off-putting, especially for those who already have systems built on their rooftops. It, once again, puts the rooftop solar industry – a major source of job growth – at odds with the municipal utility. (See previous criticisms of LADWP, their delays, and inefficiencies here.)

Solar companies and constituents are in the process of contacting L.A. council offices, so there is hope that a policy fix is be on the way. Moreover, Mayor Garcetti has made his plans for increased distributed generation in L.A. clear. After all, the City did approve the original contracts that solar companies have used.

Meanwhile, interconnection is on hold for hundreds of families. Consumers are trying to do the right thing, and solar companies and customers have complied throughout the process, yet the utility is forcing everyone to jump through hoops despite approving the original course.

Let’s hope L.A. moves forward and changes the course.