The head of Los Angeles’ renewable energy program has resigned amid criticism that her office significantly overspent its budget for solar power and may have provided rebates to ineligible groups while failing to substantially expand the city’s use of green energy.
Angelina Galiteva, the Department of Water and Power’s director of strategic planning, denied Friday that she had felt any pressure to quit and defended her actions, saying that she had to overcome obstacles to get the Green L.A. program off the ground.
“I feel very good about what we’ve accomplished. I’m extremely proud of what we have done,” she said. “Paradigm shifts always take time.”
DWP officials said Galiteva had been given a budget of $8 million to provide rebate checks to businesses and homeowners who install solar panels this fiscal year, but that her office had spent $17 million. While doubling the rebate program could be seen as a sign of success, officials said that honoring the agency’s existing long-term commitments could severely limit its ability to sign up new solar users next year.
An audit last year by the city controller concluded that the renewable energy program spent too much on public relations, expensive entertainment and promotion and that controls on program finances were lax.
City Controller Laura Chick said Friday that she has ordered a follow-up audit and that the overspending would be a focus of that review.
“I am indignant because months and months ago our audit said something was wrong with the management and decision-making of this program,” Chick said. “I had hoped things would have changed.”
The audit last year found that the Green L.A. program had spent $22.7 million since its inception in 1999 on efforts to develop solar energy but had “not yet produced significant amounts of new green power.”
In some cases, money was going to ineligible or nonperforming projects. “Field inspections of a solar installation at a local college found that no metering was installed and that the system was inoperable,” the audit said.
DWP officials cited advice from the city attorney’s office in refusing to discuss specific problems with the program Friday, but agency sources said the attorneys have questioned whether some of those receiving rebates had been eligible to receive them.
DWP General Manager David Wiggs said he had asked for an evaluation to determine how to accommodate the contractual commitments made this year.
“The program was more successful than anybody anticipated,” Wiggs said.
“We are sorting through it and we will have to move some dollars around, but we will honor any contracts people have for rebates,” Wiggs said.
Defenders said that, although the solar budget was $8 million, the DWP board had given Galiteva some flexibility to spend more.
“We had authority,” Galiteva said. “We had a budget. We spent within our program authority. We followed through on what the board members and management asked us to do and we moved forward to ensure each and every program’s success, which was the overall objective of the Green L.A. mission.”
The DWP has been harshly criticized by environmental groups in recent months for producing only 2.2% of its energy from renewable sources, while utilities statewide generate 12% of their energy from such sources.
Environmentalists are dissatisfied with the DWP’s progress in shifting to renewable energy, even as they defend Galiteva for trying to push the envelope by putting limited funds into solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy programs.
“We have not seen them take steps to really increase renewable energy production,” said Eli Richlin of the group Environment California.
Richlin and others have called on the DWP to increase its clean energy portfolio to 20%.
Despite criticism of the program, City Council members gave Galiteva a certificate of appreciation Friday for her work heading Green L.A.
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti and others noted that Galiteva had to build the Green L.A. program from scratch and had made progress, even though the DWP had provided limited resources for renewable energy.
“Environmental leadership is about taking risks and whenever you take those risks there are perils,” Garcetti said.
“True leadership is a person who is willing to fight ahead and take those risks, even when we know there will be failures along the way. This is the kind of leadership you have shown us.”