Solar in the Southland

The Benefits of Achieving 20 Percent Local Solar Power in Los Angeles by 2020
Released by: Environment California Research & Policy Center

As anyone who has flown into Los Angeles International Airport knows, the city has a staggering amount of flat, empty roof space. For an average of 260 days each year, the sun bathes those rooftops in virtually endless amounts of light. However, most of that energy goes unused. Only one percent of Los Angeles’s electricity currently comes from solar power.

More than any other city in the country, Los Angeles could benefit from a robust market for rooftop solar power on homes, office buildings, schools, warehouses, parking lots, and more. Solar power can benefit our environment, our health and our economy—providing cleaner air, reducing global warming, conserving water and creating jobs.

To capture these benefits, Los Angeles’s leaders should adopt a visionary goal of installing 1,200 megawatts of local solar power generation capacity by 2020.

Powering Los Angeles with 1,200 megawatts (MW) of local solar power would help clean the air and reduce global warming pollution.

  • Reaching this goal would prevent the annual emission of over 1.1 million metric tons of global warming pollution, which is comparable to eliminating the tailpipe emissions of 230,000 passenger vehicles.
  • In addition, installing this amount of solar power would prevent the emission of over 730,000 pounds of smog-forming pollution per year.

Building 1,200 MW of local solar power would conserve valuable water.

  • Solar panels generate electricity without using any water beyond that needed for occasional washing.
  • If 1,200 MW of rooftop solar displaced electricity generated from natural gas power plants, it would save an estimated 435 million gallons of water per year.2

Installing 1,200 MW of local solar power would create jobs and save Angelenos money.

  • Building 1,200 MW of local solar by 2020 would create approximately 32,000 job-years of employment. To put this number in context, the University of California, Los Angeles—which ranks among the city’s leading employers—has a workforce of just under 32,000 people.
  • Incentives have made it possible for the Los Angeles Unified School District to invest in a solar energy system that, when complete, will save an average of up to $800,000 each month in electricity costs. Offering continued incentives will enable more Los Angeles consumers to bring their energy bills down to zero, or near zero, saving significant money over the long run.

Building 1,200 MW of local solar power in Los Angeles by 2020 is an achievable goal.

  • Los Angeles rooftops could hold an estimated 5,500 megawatts (MW) of solar panels.3 Those panels could produce enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.4
  • 1,200 MW is approximately 20 percent of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s (LADWP) summertime peak energy needs.5 This much local solar energy could power approximately 300,000 Los Angeles homes.6
  • Twelve hundred megawatts also represents LADWP’s load-proportionate share of Governor Brown’s goal of installing 12,000 MW of local clean power across the state by 2020.

To achieve this goal:

  • The Mayor and the City Council should provide clear, strong and consistent direction and support to LADWP to achieve the 1,200 MW local solar power goal and secure the city’s clean energy future.
  • LADWP should fully implement and maintain the integrity of the 150 MW feed-in tariff program by 2016 and expand the program to achieve 600 MW by 2020.