LADWP to hire staff, streamline its applications for solar customers

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said Wednesday it is hiring more workers and simplifying applications for customers who install solar panels on their roof.

The efforts come as the utility faces criticism from many Angelenos who complain of long waits and bureaucratic hurdles when trying to get solar systems hooked to the power grid.

The utility has doubled its staff for processing applications, and will also hire more workers to man its hotline, the LADWP said in a Wednesday statement. The utility is also looking for ways to improve the overall experience for solar customers, such as streamlining the application review process.

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The city’s Department of Building and Safety will also simplify the permitting process for customers trying to obtain the proper paperwork to install panels, the utility said.

“We recognize that our solar customers have become frustrated with longer than normal response times and the challenges of navigating through the application, review, inspection and rebate processes,” LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said. “We want to make it easier for customers to go solar."

A Times article in February found that homeowners who want to go solar in L.A. wait at least 12 to 13 weeks before their systems are fully approved and hooked up to the grid. That was roughly five times what it takes in Sacramento and San Diego.

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The LADWP said it is still working through a backlog of applications that grew over the last half of 2013. It fell behind after experiencing a big jump in applications, combined with inadequate staff.

In the last half of 2013, customers sent in about 428 applications a month, the LADWP said. That's a 38% increase from the first half of 2012.

Billing problems will also be resolved, the utility said, after a technical problem with its meter-reading system and new billing system was fixed.

The LADWP is “mailing updated bills to solar customers, along with letters of apology to explain what happened,” the utility said.

Progress will be updated on its website on a weekly basis, the LADWP said. The information provided will include data on the backlog of rebate checks, application numbers and other performance metrics.


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