The utility suspended its solar program in April because it was running out of money and couldn’t keep up with demand and interest, according to a release from the utility. At that time, the company was receiving about three times as many applications for solar incentives as it had budgeted.
The department approved new lower incentives with the aim of making them go farther. LADWP also said that because its rates are already lower than most other utility companies in California, the new solar incentive structure puts the utility on an even playing field with other companies.
“The dollars will stretch farther because the incentives are lower,” said LADWP spokeswoman Carol Tucker.
The new program will still allow solar customers to assign their renewable energy credit to LADWP in exchange for receiving an additional $0.40 per watt.
Also to encourage more solar and benefit more customers, according to the release, the department 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.
Under the revised program, LADWP will suspend the program when new reservations reach the $40 million level until the next fiscal year. This will ensure the program stays on a steady pace, within its annual budget, while allowing applications already approved and in the pipeline to proceed.
Tucker said she expects the money to last through the year.
“But it will depend on the level of customer interest in the program,” Tucker said, “assuming it remains as popular as it was before it was suspended.”
In addition to re-launching the solar incentive program, LADWP board members and community members are brainstorming ways to make solar more affordable for lower-income households.