Published on March 20th, 2009 | by Jennifer Kho0
Sun Sets on LA Solar Measure
March 20th, 2009 by Jennifer Kho
A measure calling for 400 megawatts of solar power on city-owned property in Los Angeles has officially failed. After a final tally, the city clerk’s office announced Thursday evening that voters rejected Measure B by a narrow 1 percent margin, with “yes” votes trailing 2,644 votes behind the “no” votes.
The announcement ends more than two weeks of suspense. Voters went to the polls March 3, but the result of the solar measure remained too close to call as provisional, late and write-in ballots had to be carefully counted.
The measure gave voters a chance to weigh in on one piece of a three-part plan, called Solar LA, to bring 1.3 gigawatts of solar capacity to the City of Angels. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa initially introduced the plan, which also includes 380 megawatts of residential and small-commercial solar and 500 megawatts of large desert solar projects, in October.
Now, the future of the plan is smoggy. Before the election, David Libatique, LA’s associate director for energy and the environment, suggested that the city might not look for other ways to move forward with the 400-megawatt piece — such as by revising it — if the measure didn’t pass. “We would really have to look at why voters voted it down before making a decision,” he said. He also indicated that the mayor’s office would use the election to help gauge residents’ support of solar power. “It would certainly come as a surprise that the public doesn’t think we should be investing in solar,” he said.
Measure B faced criticism on several points. For one thing, it specified that the LA Department of Water and Power, the largest municipal utility in the country, would own all the solar-power systems, leading some solar advocates to complain that the provision would close the market to competition. Other critics also opposed a provision that called for city workers to install the system, saying it would increase costs.
But it would be wrong to think that Measure B opponents don’t want solar power, Adam Browning, executive director of solar-advocacy group Vote Solar, said earlier this month. “Nobody was saying this shouldn’t be done because we’re worried about solar. The takeaway should be ‘More solar for LADWP.’”