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Solar perplexus: Charter Amendment B

LA DWPMeasure Bsolar power

Solar_ap_kevork_djansezian "We're asking the people to buy into the idea of DWP being a solar utility and using, first of all, the wherewithal that brought us low-priced electricity in this town, namely DWP ownership of the power plant, the use of low-cost municipal bond financing, the elimination of profit."

-S. David Freeman, city harbor commissioner and former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; Yes on B.

"We all agree that solar power is good for L.A. The issue that we have is Measure B. And ...there is a very good alternative to Measure B, and that's just a City Council ordinance, like they should have done in the beginning: Hearings, get some [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] input, public input and just pass an ordinance."

-Jack Humphreville, Los Angeles ratepayer; No on B.

Charter Amendment B -- the solar power plan -- is by far the best-known and most controversial of the five measures on the March 3 city ballot, and the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board is putting in plenty of time poring over data and querying the yes and no campaigns before endorsing. We would prefer to have endorsed earlier, but that would have meant rushing through the information and arguments. And in fact, that's one of our biggest problems with the measure -- the degree of complexity and the very short turn-around time that the proponents and the Los Angeles City Council have foisted on the people of Los Angeles. We editorialized our dismay at the process here, here and here.

But we want to make our decision based at least in part on the substance of the measure, and we invite you to read comments from our meetings with proponents and opponents. Read the full transcript of the No on B meeting, which we held first, here, and the Yes on B transcript here. Audio links will follow in a separate post.

There are highlights below, but first, take a look at an outside opinion. Adam Browning of the Vote Solar Initiative writes about things you may never hear in either campaign -- things that are essential to Los Angeles' solar plans. His conclusion: Charter Amendment B may be a good thing for L.A., but only if the Department of Water and Power backs off plans to pursue legislation in Sacramento.

Confused? Let Browning explain. Also, see the multi-part Dust-Up between the Yes and No campaigns on Charter Amendment B. And for good measure here's the website for the Yes people and the one for the No people.

Here are some highlights from the L.A. Times transcripts.

Jack Humphreville, No on B: In terms of the cost, solar energy is going to be expensive no matter how you cut it. It’s simple as that. Now, the DWP has made a number of assumptions; I think the major one of which is they’re going to get all sorts of tax credits and tax subsidies. I don’t know whether those are permissible under the tax code at this point in time. They’ve also made some other huge assumptions, which get them into the range of 17 to 30 cents as opposed to 70 cents. So that is in addition to the tax subsidies and benefits for accelerated depreciation. They’re talking about technological breakthroughs, economies of scale, volume discounts, optimal sighting, none of which has been really vetted or talked through.

Robert Greene, Los Angeles Times: Jack, you’ve mentioned, and several of the other folks against this measure have mentioned, there’s a concern with locking out private enterprise. But the Department of Water and Power – we have municipal power in this city….The Department of Water and Power, for anything that it operates, uses DWP employees. This would basically be the same thing, would it not? Rather than going off in a new direction and locking out private enterprise, we’re actually going on the same direction that municipal power’s been in for decades.

Humphreville: I would disagree. DWP owns the power. DWP owns transmission lines that come in from Novato or Utah, where the coal plants are. They own the local distribution; they also own pieces of these coal plants. What they haven’t done, though, is actually built the coal plants. They haven’t built the generators. So actually building and installing is very different than actually constructing them. So they haven’t been in the construction side of the business.

Jim Newton, L.A. Times: I’d be prepared to accept that this was driven at least in large measure by a union agenda. But if I thought that benefits of it were such that substantively it was a good idea that would generate 400 megawatts of power and it would be a positive in an economic sense as well, I guess I would be prepared to support it despite its history. So I wonder if we can kind of move to the substance of it at least for a bit here and talk about whether it would do what its proponents say.

Ron_kaye_mayo_communications_2 Ron Kaye, No on B: Can I address that in part? My dog Bruno blogged today off of three articles in The Times. One was the city’s efforts at Palmdale airport, to turn it into an airport. Another was the trucks at the port, and how it’s falling down. And then the MTA tax, that the first transit improvement is to raise fares and cut services. Those are three fundamental failures. If you look at the process, which isn’t just a technical process, it’s a defeating of the democratic process that could have brought everybody in, which is why I say there was a better way to do it: Have real planning, send it out to the neighborhoods, let people talk about it, bring it to the DWP, papers write about it, everybody analyzes it, and we’re all aboard.

Kaye: And I think this is really the big issue: Is City Hall under the control of the City Council, which is what the charter reform allows them to change this in any way they want at any time, really the ones to be organizing, leading and guiding this after an election based on no information, no public discussion, no analysis? You’re writing a blank check to people who have failed you in so many ways, and that’s what I think is the core issue for me.

Meeting with Yes on B campaign:

S. David Freeman, Los Angeles harbor commissioner and former DWP general managerSo the issue is, is this a cost-effective, sensible way of doing it? And if you just take a broad view of things, what renewable energy do we have that we can harness? Well, here in Los Angeles, by God we have the sun....

We're asking the people to buy into the idea of DWP being a solar utility and using, first of all, the wherewithal that brought us low-priced electricity in this town, namely DWP ownership of the power plant, the use of low-cost municipal bond financing, the elimination of profit. I mean, I realize that people don't like to talk about this bluntly, but these solar companies are charging $9 a watt; we're going to put this stuff in for $4 a watt or less, and don't tell me that those numbers are not solid. The Edison Company is doing virtually a similar thing right now. I'm not representing the department or anyone else; I'm still in this ballgame, been in it for 20 years and I talk to people. You can get the panels for less than $3 a watt with the new thin-film technology and putting them in one megawatt at a time, not on houses one at a time, the labor costs go tumbling down. And the $4 number is a very solid number; that's with today's technology, and these costs are going down....

And as far as why it's on the ballot, it seems to me that if you're going to do something as innovative as this, it's really not a bad idea to let the people have a voice in it. We would not be sitting here today getting your attention if it weren't put on the ballot, because DWP has done everything from stealing the water of the Owens Valley to building aqueducts to building power plants, and the people have never had a chance to vote on any one thing. I think it's a good thing, what David and Brian and everyone is doing and getting a vote on this. It's a healthy discussion we're having, and I appreciate The Times taking this much of an interest in it.

H. David Nahai, DWP general manager: I would also offer a couple additional thoughts on what David just said. It is part of the solar plan, but it is appropriate for this part of the solar plan to be submitted to the voters and to have the level of scrutiny that it is being subjected to. Why? Because it's a city program. All of the other parts of the solar plan are going to involve direct contracting with the private sector…. This is a DWP program, and it is an undertaking of some size. It's appropriate that the people of Los Angeles have an opportunity to consider it in all of its various aspects.

But there are other reasons why it needs to be put on the ballot and endorsed by the voters. Because once it is approved by the voters, it will become a program; it will have a solid basis. And it will not be subject to changes in composition at the board, for instance, or changes in leadership in the city.

And why is that important? That's important because we are with this program, inviting in an entire industry, and we're asking them, we're telling them, we're going to give them big preferences if they locate to Los Angeles, if they will produce solar facilities and equipment here in Los Angeles, if they will employ our children and our young people. And when you're -- one thing that we learned coming from the private sector is that certainty is one of the most important things. And this is what this will convey to the manufacturing world, that this is a program that will be solid, that is going to be established, that won't be readily changeable, that won't be abandoned, even though there are in the ordinance itself, language that builds in flexibility that enables the department to go back to the City Council to make changes. So I think those are some additional thoughts as to why I think it's a positive thing that this is going before the voters.

Brian D'Arcy, business manager, IBEW Local 18: The problem is not with power supply. Los Angeles has 7,000 megawatts of capacity that it owns or has a piece of outright. The peak load in Los Angeles is around 5,900 megawatts everyday. But the problem is not the power supply; the problem is that the circuits are overloaded. We've built out in every station. You can't -- simply changing our transformers isn't going to fix the problem.

The problem is the same problem as anything else in Los Angeles: It's NIMBYism. You can't build out a station because these stations are built in people's neighborhoods. So the way that you solve the circuit problem is to -- and only the utility can do this, by the way -- which is to target where these solar units are going to go. If they go where the spot that is going to be the worst on the hottest day and you reduce the load at the load center. And that's one of the major, as an architect of this, that was one of the major points in this. I know that it gets lost in the process nonsense, but it's one of the main components, and it needs to be addressed. And some of this stuff in unfixable; you can't fix it. You can change out transformers, but you can't build out stations.

Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times: One big difference in my mind between a jobs program and this is that when the government proposes the new jobs program, you know what it's going to cost. The big missing piece here is that. Maybe I missed it somewhere, but we've asked a couple of times what this ends up costing, and you said, "Well, it's 3 to $4 per kilowatt, and yeah, that's higher than natural gas --"

D'Arcy: Plus around $1.2 billion. But you have to look at it in relation to what you're doing. Take the jobs and all the other questions out of it and say, "What are you really doing." What you're doing here is you're siting -- assuming you can site anything in Los Angeles -- you're siting a 400 megawatt power plant in the city proper of Los Angeles. To build anything -- ask David, he knows -- they're building a wind plant out there in Barren Ridge. The cost on that, just repowering these gas plants, was 400 or 500 million, and that was five years ago. The cost on any of this stuff is on the billion-dollar range.

So here you are, siting a plant for about a billion two, putting people to work, and dealing with the other legs in the stool in this scenario, which isn't going to go away. So the cost is, it's about a $1.2 billion siting of a plant.

Freeman: Jim, where is the meat in this conspiracy argument? Where is the meat in this stuff?

Eddy Hartenstein, publisher, L.A. Times: It's not a conspiracy argument as much as it being a transparency – this thing came up. This [Huron] report is available sort of simultaneously when, you know, absentee ballots were mailed. None of us sitting at this table are non-science believers; we believe in this. I spent a good number of years in my career knowing the virtues of photovoltaic and all of the improvements that have come from that…. The sponsor of this -- while, yes it's the DWP, and you guys have a lot history in, great, you can produce power cheaper than Edison and this and that and the other thing -- you're nevertheless branded as being a government entity. And so, when you present something and the facts aren't made available until the ballots have been mailed, it raises all kinds of questions. That's all I'm saying.

Freeman: And we're just trying to answer them.

Photo: AP / Kevork Djansezian


Comments () | Archives (11)

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It's a shame that out of all this talking, nobody managed to raise the REAL solution to the energy needs of LA - it's not DWP monopolies via Measure B or Green Path or any other harebrained schemes. It's ratepayer generation, properly incentivized.

Germany and 40 other countries offer generous feed in tariffs to home and business owners who will install clean, harmless power on their own rooftops, and feed excess power into the grid. this relieves grid loads, improves property values, removes transmission losses, requires no eminent domain, no SF6 greenhouse gas pollution, no destruction of beautiful functioning ecosystems, and provides income to people who do the right thing by investing in rooftop solar and conserving electricity.

The payments to those of us willing to do the right thing can be paired with AB 811 loans (again, low-interest, tax-free muni bonds can fund them), so that not only can we be paid back for clean power we produce, but we can afford to oversize our systems, with no money down, and amortized over 20 years through the property tax system. This is a wildly popular program in every city that it has been offered so where is the Emperor and his New Clothes on funding an AB 811 loan program? You have Billions of dollars for monopoly power, but no money for LOANS to ratepayers who could generate all the power LA needs, right where it needs it? Sorry, doesn't pass the smell test.

All FIT programs across the world (if they have sensible pricing) are oversubscribed, so why is LADPW and the rest of the US refusing to follow the ONLY proven model (RPS consistently fails, for example)? Every city that has offered AB 811 loans has been fully subscribed within days, if not hours - again, proven success.

There is no excuse for more monopolistic behavior by a utility that is ostensibly owned by US, the ratepayers. WE want to own and generate the solar power for this city - your only job is to make that easy and affordable for us. My plan will CERTAINLY be far cheaper for all ratepayers (including those who don't generate power), better for the environment than the infamous Joshua Tree Death Path (aka Green Path), and better all around for everyone.

People need to hear that they have choices that are faster, cheaper, more democratic and better for ratepayers, working people, homeowners, and the environment. AB 811 loans and generous feed in tariffs are it. Fight for your rights, folks, DWP is hardly gonna let you have them without a fight!

peter warren

I was told by DWP top officials that the loan idea doesnt fly because you cannot bundle and create loans on individual solar systems on residential housing. No one will buy bonds backed by these systems because there is no way to sell them separately from the houses.
of course, the city can issue loans with the payments tacked onto property taxes.
The sytems are pretty heavily subsidized now. about 45% is paid b y dwp as a rebate and the feds subsidize 30% of the remainder. A 30k system costs about 10k and gets you $600 of electricity a year, a pay back of 6% tax free on your investment.

Christine Aghassi

The devil is in the details and for Measure B it is specifically this:
"Sec. 23.167. Employment.
The solar power installations installed under the Program shall be the property of the Department except as otherwise expressly provided in this article and, therefore, the work shall be completed by Department employees, at the rates specified in the applicable bargaining unit Memoranda of Understanding
(MOU). If there is a need to utilize contractors to support Department employees, then they shall be paid consistent with contracting provisions in any
applicable MOUs and selected consistent with applicable contracting requirements of the Charter and this Code; also, in such an event, employees of the contractors shall be paid prevailing wage."

A plan of this size and scope should require competitive bidding. That is the only reasonable way to save ratepayers from uncertain and uncapped rate increases. Vote NO on B.


Peter Warren, I don't know who told you that about AB 811 loans, but they are totally wrong. First of all, since the loans are GUARANTEED for repayment by taking first lien on the home, everyone will buy the bonds - they are risk and tax free for chrissakes!! Compare that to 60% losses for S & P 500 funds - there will be a stampede!

Since Mr. Freeman insists that the solar panels that are being built under Measure B can be purchased with muni bonds, I am quite positive that AB 811 can be. What's the difference? Palm Desert and Berkeley have shown incredible success and roughly half the counties in the state are seriously considering these loan programs - trust me, they would work if LA made the effort.

You seem to believe that $600 worth of offsets against a $10,000 cash outlay is a "good deal," but a 20-year payback is not what people are looking for in this economy. My plan is NO money down and a check every month. Who wouldn't want that? AND it's cheaper for non-generating ratepayers than Green Path and Measure B because the infrastructure is paid for by the homeowners, not by the ratepayers...

We are either serious about global warming and renewable energy or we are not. If we are serious, then we need to engage PEOPLE, not just re-entrench Big Energy monopolies. If we aren't serious, then let's not waste our money on Measure B, ok?

Chris Rowe

To all my friends in the Sierra Club, Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, the Santa Susana Mountains Park Association, and the Canada Goose Project:

We all want SOLAR. We all want alternative technology.

The LADWP is already implementing that with their "Green Path" transmission plans. They are already in the EIR stage in some areas, already in the stage of bringing the approval of easements to the City Council for the Tehachapi Wind Farm.

We do not meed Measure B to implement any of these programs - the "Green Path" to the Tehachapi Wind Farm, the "Green Path" to the Salton Sea for geothemal, or a "Green Path" to the desert to bring in transmission from the "High Desert Solar Resource Area".

One of the things that "Yes on Measure B" people don't tell you is - where is the 400 MW of solar energy going to be put? Some could be on government buildings in Los Angeles. Some could be on private rooftops. Solar collectors could be put at the Palmdale airport.

But has anyone ever told you that they say - solar could fit in a "RESERVOIR"?

I have some friends that have made an effort to change the name of the LADWP owned "Chatsworth Reservoir" into the "Chatsworth Nature Preserve". We kind of think that "open space" is important in this end of Los Angeles.

So to my "green friends" - does Measure B tell you that they will not put solar collectors into your favorite open space in Los Angeles? Because if it doesn' t say that it can't happen, it can happen.

Measure B is a CHARTER AMENDMENT that would allow the LADWP to do just that - put solar collectors all over the Ciy in open space.


Michael Trujillo

Measure B is the little measure that could on this City ballot.

For some reason while working on this campaign people like to point out to me all the reasons why “we can’t” do Measure B and to them I say, to quote Dolores Huerta “Yes We Can”.

It’s odd that some people who make outrageous claims about this Measure don’t want to be intellectually consistent when applying their ideas across the City.
For instance, if we as residents wanted to expand the public safety portfolio of the LAPD – what would our normal expectations be? Well, we would expect them to be LAPD officers. What if we wanted to expand the portfolio of the LAFD, would not those workers be Los Angeles Firefighters?

Yes they would.

But according to our opponents, if they were being honest – we would open up the bidding for the public safety portfolio to Brinks Home Security or West Tech because they would cruise our streets and put criminals behind bars for cheaper. Thanks but no thanks!

When we ask the Los Angeles DWP to expand its energy portfolio – we should be consistent and expect them to be DWP employees, which this measure mandates.

But why?

Simple, because Measure B mandates we place solar panels on government buildings and public land, it should be noted that the DWP owns more buildings and land than any other City department, so in essence we are asking DWP employees to put solar panels on mostly DWP property, sounds very controversial to me.

Hey what about those jobs!

Well we expect thousands to be created – both in the installation portion and the manufacturing. The DWP expects that over 1,000 additional workers will be needed to install these solar panels, that’s not including the technicians, engineers and roofing professionals that will be needed to advise on each job to ensure safety and proper installation (not every roof is built the same). Also Measure B offers a 30 percent premium to Los Angeles based solar manufacturers to ensure Angelinos get those manufacturing jobs. As of today we have one manufacturer in South Central LA and if Measure B passes they will need to hire an additional 750 people just keep up with demand. Also an additional three solar manufacturers have said they will open shop in Los Angeles just so they can provide solar panels to the largest customer in the world – the LADWP.

What if I don’t like the DWP?

Well, that’s unfortunate because they have provided this City with reliable energy and clean water for over 100 years. When the rest of the State was experiencing rolling blackouts – Angelenos conserved and the LADWP was selling surplus energy back to the state. Energy profiteers exist in the Solar world too (gasp!) and with Measure B we will bring the price down for solar across the world, don’t believe me? Read this: http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/first-solar-claims-1-a-watt-industry-milestone/?hp And while its unfortunate you may not like the DWP – a third party organization JD Power and Associates ranks the DWP #2 west of the Mississippi in terms of customer satisfaction, that is a higher rank than our USC football team!

Does this actually clean our environment?

Yes, yes and absolutely yes!
Currently before the board of the AQMD is a state of the art natural gas facility to be built in the City of Vernon (borders South Central Los Angeles). The AQMD will not approve this plan because Southern California is dangerously close to having a very unhealthful level of oxidized nitrogen in our air. Want to know what happens to a set of 2 year old lungs when it’s exposed to pure oxidized nitrogen – they disintegrate.
When we need power the most, when the Sun is at its highest in the middle of Summer and everyone has their air conditioners on, that’s when Measure B’s solar energy will be flexing its muscles , and when solar flexes its muscle that when we don’t have to burn the natural gas stations that exist here in LA – less oxidized nitrogen = cleaner air.

The usual band of suspects that oppose this have a dark perspective on the city’s past, present and future – I don’t and neither does the Sierra Club, American Lung Association, League of Conservation Voters, Heal the Bay, Clean Air Now and the County federation of Labor.
But don’t take my word for it – go ask them and then vote YES on Measure B.

From the Campaign Manager for Measure B

Chris Rowe

This is for Sheila in regards to Germany:

Green Energy Not Cutting Europe's Carbon

Wind farms and solar panels are a European success story. But the dirty little secret is that using renewable energy isn't reducing carbon emissions
By Anselm Waldermann
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Germany's renewable energy companies are a tremendous success story. Roughly 15 percent of the country's electricity comes from solar, wind or biomass facilities, almost 250,000 jobs have been created and the net worth of the business is €35 billion per year.
But there's a catch: The climate hasn't in fact profited from these developments. As astonishing as it may sound, the new wind turbines and solar cells haven't prohibited the emission of even a single gram of CO2.
Even more surprising, the European Union's own climate change policies, touted as the most progressive in the world, are to blame. The EU-wide emissions trading system determines the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by power companies and industries. And this amount doesn't change – no matter how many wind turbines are erected.
Experts have known about this situation for some time, but it still isn't widely known to the public. Even Germany's government officials mention it only under their breath. No one wants to discuss the political ramifications.
It's a sensitive subject: Germany is recognized worldwide as a leader in all things related to renewable energy. The environmental energy sector doesn't want this image to be tarnished. Under no circumstances does Berlin want the Renewable Energy Law (EEG) – which mandates the prices at which energy companies have to buy green power – to fall into disrepute.
At the same time, big energy companies have an interest in maintaining the status quo. As a result, no one is pushing for change. Everyone involved is remaining silent.
Not an Instrument against Climate Change
In truth, however, even the Green Party has recognized the problem, as evidenced by an e-mail exchange last year between party energy experts and obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE. One wrote the following message to a colleague: "Dear Daniel, sorry, but the EEG won't do anything for the climate anyway." Ever since the introduction of the emissions trading system, the Renewable Energy Law had become "an instrument of structural change, but not an instrument to combat climate change."
That means: wind turbines and solar energy plants are revolutionizing Germany's mix of power sources, creating jobs and making the country more independent from imports. But they aren't helping in the fight against climate change.
In the worst case scenario, sustainable energy plants might even have a detrimental effect on the climate. As more wind turbines go online, coal plants will be able to reduce their output. This in itself is desirable – but the problem is that the total number of available CO2 emission certificates remains the same. In other words, there will suddenly be more certificates per kilowatt of coal energy. That means the price per ton of CO2 emitted will fall.
That is exactly what happened in recent trading. A certificate to emit a ton of CO2 cost almost nothing. As a result, there was very little incentive for big energy companies to invest in climate friendly technologies.
On the contrary. Germany was able to sell unused certificates across Europe – to coal companies in countries like Poland or Slovakia, for example. Thanks to Germany's wind turbines, these companies were then able to emit more greenhouse gases than originally planned. Given the often lower efficiency of Eastern European power plants, this is anything but environmentally beneficial.
This phenomenon is especially apparent whenever the sustainable energy industry grows more quickly than anticipated – as in recent years when growth in the renewable energy branch quickly rendered the EU Commission's CO2 plans obsolete.
Building Renovations Are Better than Windmills
Experts from the Green Party are taking the problem very seriously: "We are in a veritable crisis situation, and that means we must reconsider and alter things we once took for granted," writes one contributor, adding that it's important to re-examine "whether we have set the right priorities."
Another expert begins his e-mail with a general clarification: "Dear People, I'm not fundamentally against the EEG.
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I only emphasize this because Manfred has repeatedly and erroneously described me as an opponent of the EEG." But here comes the big "but": "When reduction of CO2 emissions is more cheaply achieved through insulating a building than using a wind turbine, that is where we should concentrate our support." When it comes to climate change, everything else is secondary to reducing CO2 emissions.
Indeed, when it comes to climage change, investments in wind and solar energy are not very efficient. Preventing one ton of CO2 emissions requires a relatively large amount of money. Other measures, especially building renovations, cost much less – and have the same effect.
The e-mail exchange ends with a conciliatory "What do you think?" But it is quickly followed by a bitter PS: "Do the Greens think that this problem (of climate change) will solve itself if we just screw solar panels onto our rooftops?"
Environmental Groups Admit to the Problem
The German Renewable Energy Federation is clearly not thrilled about the debate. The lobbying group's official line is: "By implementing renewable energy, there will by a reduction in 2008 of 120 million tons of CO2." When pressed, however, representatives of the federation will admit that this only applies to Germany. But the reality is that the freely traded CO2 certificates can be sold and used abroad.
Likewise, one federation employee openly said that there is "a certain degree of inconsistency" between the EEG and emissions trading.
But does it really have to be like this? Is it really so impossible to reconcile both of these instruments for protecting the climate?
In theoretical terms, of course it's possible. To do so, however, currently existing laws designed to prevent CO2 emissions would have to be reconciled. In real terms, for example, that means that every time a new wind turbine is built, the state would be forced to take certificates off the market. It is only in this way that you can achieve real positive effects on the climate.
Politicians Buckle to Business
There were discussions about such a system under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who governed in a coalition with the Green Party. At the time, Minister of the Environment Jürgen Tritten wanted to exclude the amounts of energy covered by the EEG from the calculations used in the carbon-trading scheme. Instead, the industry-friendly regulations currently in effect were pushed through. Major energy corporations, which had claimed as many CO2 certificates as they possibly could, lobbied heavily.
So why has nothing changed? According to experts, one reason has to do with technical problems. In the course of an ongoing trading period, they claim, adjusting the volume of CO2 certificates is no easy task.
Still, an SPD insider provides yet another explanation: "Politicians just have to resign themselves to certain things." As he sees it, if the state went back to the companies and took away the certificates they had been allotted, the result would be an uproar. "What do you think the companies would say to us?" he asks. "As a politician, there are certain storms that you simply can't weather."
Provided by Spiegel Online—Read the latest from Europe's largest newsmagazine

Chris Rowe

To Michael Trujillo:
"Yes We Can" - The message of Barack Obama our new President. This is a game that the "Yes on Measure B" people are playing. Because our new President is a Democrat, and our Mayor is a Democrat, the "Yes on Measure B" people walk into a Democratic Club and say:
"I'm a Democrat". I would like to point out please here that the "Yes on Measure B" people are employees paid to carry that message that is drilled into them. The "No on Measure B" people are often the Neighborhood Council members and City Advocates - not paid for the nightly trips to numerous meetings.

We have two competing reports - both analyses of the costs and ability to implement the 400 MW solar program.
These are well known business consulting firms. (PA Consulting and Huron)

But the Huron Report refers to thin film solar technology. And we do not know the life of this material. Where are the scientists and engineering independent reports that tell us what is technically feasible, and what is the most efficient method? Have we talked to our new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and asked him - what do you think is the best technology for Los Angeles?

The LADWP recommended signing an MOU with JPL / CAL TECH for energy consulting. I would love to hear the JPL / CAL TECH engineers give us a report on the best way to spend billions of tax payer money for solar energy.

With CEQA requirements, an EIR could take 1 - 5 years to implement for a new factory for manufacturing in Los Angeles. Then there is another year to design it. Another year to build it. So minimally several years to go online in Los Angeles. And the question is - where? We are very NIMBY in Los Angeles.

Finally, Michael, Dr. Wiseman has the greatest capability to say this as a pediatrician. I have said it to the American Lung Association, and Dr. Wiseman has said it to a group listening to all sides of Measure B:

"There is no way that the air in Los Angeles will be any cleaner just because we put in solar technology. We have to remove a source of carbon based emissions from the L.A. Basin to clean the air in Los Angeles. Therefore, if a plant were to be built, as the ones that you are mentioning that the American Lung Association opposed, you would need to make sure that they could be built so that there are no toxic emissions that would add to the already heavy load in the Los Angeles basin air. And one of the worst sources of pollution is the L.A. Harbor. So if we want to implement solar quickly, and we import solar by ship from China, Japan, or Thailand - all big solar manufacturing countries, you will exacerbate the health problems of the asthma victims.

So you have just made the case of why the American Lung Association may oppose the building of a large scale solar manufacturing facility in Los Angeles.
Because the manufacturing process of silicon based photovoltaic cells can use very toxic chemicals and have toxic by products.

Michael Trujillo

Chris, Chris, Chris.

Couple points of clarification.

“Yes We Can” is actually from “Si Se Puede” which originated from Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers. As a close personal friend of Dolores Huerta’s (co-founder of UFW) I often quote her because I think she is an American hero.

And yes there do seem to be some partisan affiliations lining up on the “Yes” side and the “No” side. An easy one is the fact that the County Republican Party opposes Measure B and the County Democratic Party supports Measure B.

Also there are not two competing reports – just one. PA has admitted that they did their report over a weekend and never actually visited any solar manufacturing plants to get their numbers – instead they relied on the CA Energy Commission Power point slide – which sadly for PA was produced during the third quarter of 2006. Since then the price of Solar has been cut in half – one only needs to look at the latest PUC filings that Edison recently reported that had Solar power being produced at $4 dollars a watt.

The Huron report took weeks to complete – hours of actually visiting solar sites and following up with the experts in the field, they ran over 10,000 cost simulations – Huron is the real thing. Its unfortunate the press has allowed PA Consulting to justify their million dollar contract with city by letting them sell everyone snake oil.

No we have not spoken with our new Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as you can imagine he is quite busy, but someone from the Obama administration did have a hand in creating Measure B.
Nancy Sutley, who now sits as the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, before she got that post she was the Deputy Mayor on the Environment for Mayor Villaraigosa. Nancy was instrumental on every facet of Measure B, and the President is aware of that – it might be why he chose her.

As for JPL/Cal TECH and the LDWP – the Los Angeles DWP does have more PHD’s per square foot than any other entity in the City of Los Angeles, and yes many of those PHD’s that work for the DWP come from Cal Tech.

Also as for new manufacturing plants in Los Angeles – there hasn’t been more than one that has taken longer than 15 months to come online from inception to production, I wonder where you get your facts from.

As for anyone that says our air won’t be cleaner, they are just plain wrong – yes even the good doctor. Every dirty watt we replace with a green watt has a direct correlation to how much dirty air we breathe in Los Angeles. As for the Harbor, I suspect you didn’t read today’s wonderful LA Times article on the new electric trucks we have shipping our goods along with the fact that the NRDC sees the LA Harbor as a model for other harbors across the country on how to clean up the smog it creates.

And as for your claim we will be shipping in solar panels from foreign countries you are just wrong, wrong, and wrong.
Just ask Solar Integrated, based in South Central Los Angeles, a company that already ships its solar product to 16 other foreign countries, hungry for a customer here in Los Angeles. Pass Measure B and our local solar companies will get just that – a customer.

Chris Rowe


It is great that you can quote from Caesar Chavez. I had not heard that term in my class on community organizing when we studied Caesar Chavez. I studied him under Dr. Alcocer of CSUN. I think that Dr. Soledad Garcia is more familiar with this movement - I did not live in California at that time.

Actually, I was responsible for three Democratic Clubs hearing balanced presentations on Measure B. And except for those people who had already made up their minds because they believe in listening to the top down leadership, I think that you will be very surprised that many Democrats that have taken the time to read the "Charter Amendment B" actually oppose it.

In fact, Kan Mattoo and I - both Democrats - discussed this last Sunday at the DPSFV meeting. I told him that the Daily News was already "No on Measure B" and he said to wait to Thursday to see what the LA Times said. Surprise - Michael, Kan, and James - the LA Times came out against "Charter Amendment B" too.

I suspect that if the PA Consulting Report was old, that City Controller Laura Chick would have pointed that out. She didn't. And she said that the whole way that this "Charter Amendment" went on the ballot - "Stinks".

Huron - well I have been making a few phone calls too. And the solar companies that I have spoken to locally - the ones that install residential solar - oppose "Charter Amendment B". They say that it will cause problems for them.

Simulations - all you have to do to run simulations is to set up a few calculations and a computer will do that in no time. The amazing thing is that the LADWP paid $100,000 for 450 hours of work. That is $222.22 an hour. And they produced about a 20 page Power Point.
That's about $5000.00 a page.

Let's think about this - you don't trust the PA Consulting Report - paid for by the City and who has other contracts for the City - and has been reviewing the LADWP for 5 years - and they produce a 223 Page document - that is dated January 17, 2009 - and you don't consider the data current? So if you don't trust the City Council to hire the right consultant - PA Consulting - who Eric Garcetti asked for a report from - how can you trust the City Council to determine the fate of the Measure B project if it lives? All of the power will be in the hands of the City Council. They can say - it's too expensive, it's not feasible, and send it on its merry way.
90 days - that is what the time frame is for the LADWP to come up with a feasible project.

So I do hope that we have some of those JPL / Cal Tech engineers looking at what roofs will hold those solar panels. And how many of them will have to tilt up to catch the sun? And what about the views from those office buildings - are those high end homeowners and business owners going to want to look down at a sea of solar panels?

Manufacturing plants - if they are coming online in 15 months you must be bypassing the EIR process. But that is nothing new in this City.

You are not replacing many dirty watts in Los Angeles because most of our power is imported. Therefore, we will only be using the solar for daylight periods - peak periods - and then we go back to the dirty power until we can create the green paths to additional sources of geothermal, wind, and the future large solar facility - about 10 years down the line. So don't hold your breath for that clean air soon.

I have heard about the new trucks going online - it is a step. But we have volume in Los Angeles - and we have trucks coming in from Mexico that do not have to meet our emission standards.

So if Solar Integretad is shipping their products to 16 foreign countries - why don't we have more solar in the City of Los Angeles than we do today?

Why is it that the Department of Energy has left Los Angeles off their list of the "Top 25 Solar Cities"? I saw Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco last Sunday - he didn't seem to have a problem putting in solar in his City. In fact, I think that it is already a "model solar city".

So with the L.A. Times saying "No on Measure B" you will just have to take to the message to the people and tell them as you have been about all of the jobs. But the unions are catching on and finally realizing that they are only IBEW jobs.

We do not have to pass "Charter Amendment B" to get solar - the LADWP is buying up those land rights and doing those EIRs for their big solar facilities and green lines as fast as they can.

Solar material prices will fluctuate like any product - based upon supply and demand. There are some plants that have shut down because the United States has not been able to afford solar recently. Other companies export because the solar is subsidized. And we will need for it to be subsidized here in Los Angeles for it to be affordable.

I doubt very seriously if the President of the United States has ever heard of "Charter Amendment B" - unless he has been reading about it in the N.Y. Times.

But it is possible that Steven Chu has - since they have been having energy hearings this week relative to the Stimulus package.

No on Charter Measure B


Jack, you’ve mentioned, and several of the other folks against this measure have mentioned, there’s a concern with locking out private enterprise. But the Department of Water and Power – we have municipal power in this city….



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