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Measure B proponents continue to push solar power plan

March 21, 2009|David Zahniser
  • A cyclist bikes through the parking lot of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which uses solar panels to produce energy. Final results released from the March 3 election showed that Measure B, which would allow for installation of more panels, fell narrowly short of the 50% needed for passage.
A cyclist bikes through the parking lot of the Los Angeles Department of… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

One day after the solar energy plan known as Measure B went down to defeat, backers of the proposal said they would push the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to pursue the environmental initiative anyway.

Environmentalists, labor leaders and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said they would continue to press the municipal utility to achieve Measure B's core mission: the installation of 400 megawatts of DWP-owned solar panels throughout the city, and on city-owned property, by 2014.

Brian D'Arcy, who heads the union that represents DWP workers, said the ballot measure remains a good plan even though Los Angeles residents "voted the wrong way."

"It's the kind of thing our president was talking about. It puts people back to work where they live," said D'Arcy, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18. "I am not discouraged because it's the right thing to do, and I'm going to keep pressing them to do it."

Final election results released Thursday night showed that Measure B fell narrowly short of the 50% needed for passage.

Foes had complained that the plan had only three weeks of public discussion before the City Council placed it on the March 3 ballot.

Criticism intensified after The Times reported that city officials had obtained a confidential analysis warning that the solar plan could lead to considerably higher electricity bills.

The DWP responded with its own report showing that the measure would have a marginal effect on ratepayers.

Measure B opponent Jack Humphreville said he believed the city could still come up with a coherent plan for adding solar panels.

But he called for a greater emphasis on "feed-in tariffs," which would require the DWP to purchase power from private companies that install solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses.

"I don't think this should be something where the DWP goes into a backroom and decides with the union and the mayor," he added.

Still, Humphreville's suggestions set up a confrontation with the electrical workers' union, which has voiced strong skepticism about some of the DWP's other solar plans.

D'Arcy accused DWP General Manager H. David Nahai of placing too much emphasis on feed-in tariffs, which he described as a giveaway to big business, and too little on the ballot proposal.

"He is not a friend of Measure B, and the department as it relates to Mr. Nahai was not a proponent of Measure B," D'Arcy said.

Nahai said that, as a public official, he could not campaign for Measure B in the weeks leading up to the election. But Nahai said he has long favored a plan that allows the DWP to own and install a significant number of solar panels -- and told the council so during hearings last year.

"This is not a time for finger-pointing," he added. "It is a time to move forward. And as I said, this was not a vote against solar, nor was it a vote against city-owned solar. The misgivings had to do with other issues."

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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