Historically, the high up-front cost of solar equipment—from $10,000 to upwards of $20,000—has made solar systems a challenge for lower-income homeowners to afford. Furthermore, leasing programs and financing options like PACE require good credit scores, often making them inaccessible. This issue has not only created “solar deserts” in disadvantaged areas, but has prevented many low-income communities from actively contributing to their city’s clean energy goals.
On November 15th, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) approved a pilot program (which is still subject to approval by the LA City Council) to extend the utility’s solar program into areas of south Los Angeles, Wilmington, and the other 53 area codes with low solar saturation levels.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, residential customers who participate in the city’s Solar Rooftops Program will receive a $30 credit each month or $360 a year in exchange for allowing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to place solar panels on their property.
To qualify, homes must be owner-occupied, meet all LADWP and Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety requirements, and have suitable rooftops. There are no upfront costs or credit checks. The systems will produce between 2 and 4 kilowatts, for a total of up to 1 megawatt of new solar energy.
The solar rooftops program is part of the DWP’s effort to reach 400 megawatts of solar power generation in 2017 and reach the state-mandated goal of producing 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 50% by 2030.
Radio station KPCC reports that this $12.9 million rooftop solar project includes 20-year lease payments as well as construction and maintenance costs—about $32,250 per home. The report also explains that this expense was built into the recently approved power rate increases passed by the DWP Board of Commissioners and City Council.
“We are pleased to be able to offer participation in our solar programs to customers regardless of income level so they can save money on their electric bills while also being environmentally responsible,” LADWP general manager David Wright told the Los Angeles Times.
What are your impressions of the LADWP’s project model? Could this attempt to reduce the affordability gap potentially bring solar panels to homeowners in other lower-income areas as well?