Amid Interstate Politicking, Feed-In Tariffs Come to Los Angeles

Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the CLEAN LA Solar Program. It’s a small scale feed-in tariff trial, set to install about 10 MW of solar installations around the city of Los Angeles, but if it proves successful, the Council has authorized the program’s expansion, with an additional 65 MW of capacity this year and 75 more MW through 2016.

Los Angeles derives about 40 percent of its power from coal, and only 14 percent from renewables (mostly wind and small hydro). It gets 7 percent from large hydro, 26 percent from natural gas, and 9 percent from nuclear. In July 2009, Mayor Villaraigosa publicly declared that the city would break its addiction to coal by 2020, and L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti backed the mayor in a show of support for the program. The idea had national support from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which successfully defeated 139 of the proposed 150 new coal-fired power plant developments proposed under the Bush Administration.

Is that the only reason for CLEAN LA received the green light?

In an interesting political twist, Mayor Villaraigosa publicly declared a boycott of all things Arizona back when Arizona passed what many view as the most unabashedly racist laws, Senate Bill 1070, signed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer.

The law allowed racial profiling. Think I’m kidding? Here’s Section 1, subsection E of the law:

“A law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”

The law purported to curtail illegal immigration, but many said it simply went way too far. Among those, Mayor Villaraigosa, himself of Hispanic descent, who publicly declared, along with many other mayors (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Boston, Seattle, and Austin, Texas) across the country, that if Arizona didn’t repeal the law, the city of Los Angeles would stop all trade with the state.

Responding in kind, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce suggested that Arizona would cut Los Angeles’ power off. Twenty-five percent of L.A.’s power comes from Arizona’s coal plant. Pierce sent a letter to Villaraigosa’s office urging him to “reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.”

While I could not find any specific ties from this particular tiff to the current plan for Los Angeles to develop its own power plant, using rooftops across the city, one can assume it was on the minds of the L.A. City Council when they voted overwhelmingly to support the development of the very progressive feed-in tariff program.

Will other cities adopt the policy? Why on earth wouldn’t they? Why keep sending your city’s money to Utah and Arizona, as L.A. has been doing for decades, instead of keeping money, jobs, and power (literally), right there in your own community?

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business, and helps entrepreneurs start green businesses to create green jobs. For more, please visit


photo courtesy Jeremy Levine Design on Flickr Creative Commons

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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.