Solar energy without Measure B

Today's topic: What happens with solar energy in Los Angeles if Measure B doesn't pass? Click here to read previous exchanges in this Dust-Up.

Solar, starting from scratch
Point: Jack Humphreville

If voters reject Measure B on March 3, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the City Council, and the mayor would have the opportunity to do what they should have at the beginning of 2008 instead of trying to pull a fast one on L.A. residents.

What if Measure B fails? Following the recommendations of City Controller Laura Chick, the DWP should develop a full and comprehensive plan for a solar energy program that generates 400 megawatts of power locally. The plan should be presented to Los Angeles neighborhood councils, the DWP Board of Commissioners and the City Council for further debate and refinement. Finally, the City Council should discuss the plan in an open and honest fashion before passing an ordinance. We know that the DWP, the City Council and the mayor all have the political will to implement a solar program, as do many others in the city. So passing an ordinance should not be a problem.

Importantly, the ordinance should not eliminate competitive bidding so we can create a more vibrant solar industry here in Southern California. Measure B, by contrast, proposes a monopolistic, sole-source, no-bid closed system that would be controlled by the DWP, the City Council and the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the DWP's domineering union. By creating an open system, the DWP and its many commercial and industrial customers would be able to benefit from experienced contractors and workers from the skilled building trades.

A vibrant, open system that incorporates a larger share of the solar energy community would create far more jobs than the 200 to 300 new ones envisioned by Measure B. It would serve not only Los Angeles but the rest of the country and possibly even the entire world, just as L.A.'s movie industry has a global reach. Without a doubt, home and business owners would want to take advantage of the expertise in this open solar community and install their own green power facilities, generating more than the 400 megawatts of clean energy outlined in Measure B.

An ordinance that establishes an open system would also save DWP ratepayers a considerable amount of money because third-party contractors and skilled workers from the building trades have had much more experience completing large projects on time and on budget. Unlike DWP workers, they are subject to performance penalties, and the chances for massive cost overruns are substantially less.

Another benefit of an ordinance is that it would not change the City Charter and the relationship between City Hall and the DWP. Already there is too much interference from City Hall, and with Measure B, we could only imagine how the changes it would make could come back later to bite us.

An ordinance should also establish a ratepayers advocate, who would professionally and nonpolitically monitor the operations, finances and management of the DWP. Doing so would fulfill the recommendations made by Councilmen Jose Huizar and Greig Smith and past DWP Board of Commissioners President Nick Patsaouras to address proper oversight of our solar program.

Measure B is a cynical attempt by City Hall and its campaign-contributor cronies and lobbyists to "greenwash" voters by using catchy phrases. Hopefully, Angelenos will see through this charade and vote no on Measure B.

I would like to thank the Los Angeles Times for the opportunity to participate in this Dust-Up -- and I look forward to future exchanges in which the city's solar energy programs are discussed.

Jack Humphreville, the DWP ratepayers advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, wrote the ballot argument opposing Measure B.

Clean up L.A. now
Counterpoint: Sarah Leonard

Measure B's defeat at the polls on March 3 would force our next generation to rely on dirty, expensive fossil fuels because it would be years before the city of Los Angeles moves forward with a solar plan. Measure B is supported by a coalition of more than 1 million environmentalists, union members and health and community leaders, including the Coalition for Clean Air, the AFL-CIO, the American Lung Assn., Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. They know that we need to change the way we power Los Angeles now.

L.A. has the dirtiest air in the nation. More Angelenos die each year from air pollution-related causes than car crashes. Air pollution costs area families billions of dollars each year in healthcare bills. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power produces more than 75% of its energy from dirty fossil fuels. In it endorsement of Measure B, the Natural Resources Defense Council, an organization of the nation's leading environmental policy experts, said, "It is vital, now more than ever, that we enact policies to fight global warming."

DWP Commissioners Lee Kanon Alpert, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, and Jonathan Parfrey support Measure B because they know how important it is to establish a real solar energy program by passing this ballot measure. The department has talked about solar energy for years, but Measure B would actually require the DWP to produce 400 megawatts of solar power by 2014.

We can no longer just talk about solar. It's time to act. Jack, you and your friends want to keep talking, but what's far worse is your reckless disregard for the truth as part of the conversation.

Here's the truth.

Measure B was developed by energy experts, solar industry leaders, environmentalists, DWP officials and city leaders over a period of two years. There was much discussion, debate and drafting of the measure; there was also a study done before Measure B was placed on the ballot. To win over those who thought fighting global warming was too expensive, the DWP commissioned an independent study that showed its customers would continue to enjoy the lowest electricity rates in Southern California while building a greener L.A., creating jobs for Angelenos and attracting new solar companies to the city.

Measure B is part of the DWP's comprehensive plan to eventually produce 1,280 megawatts of renewable energy. It would create the new, vibrant solar community and thousands of green jobs that you yourself say is needed, Jack. It would not eliminate competitive bidding. It would allow the DWP to continue to contract out the work to install the solar panels to any workers who apply from any union, not just IBEW members. It would require the DWP to present an implementation plan to the City Council for ratification. It would require an annual audit by the city controller. It includes an unprecedented amount of transparency and accountability provisions.

The only thing that is cynical about Measure B is your view, Jack, of a sound plan to move this city forward. I guess you should have been invited to the first meeting.

Sarah Leonard is a spokeswoman for the campaign supporting Measure B.