The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power can significantly expand its use of solar energy to replace the coal-fired generation the utility is dropping from its supply mix, according to a study.
The municipal utility can increase its solar capacity to 1,500MW by 2025 from the current 153.5MW if it can overcome the challenges of slowing existing programs to encourage more solar, according to the preliminary findings of a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California.
The department, which provides water and power to 3.8mn customers mainly in the city of Los Angeles, gets about 42pc of its electricity from coal. But the department has said it will exit from its coal-fired power contracts over the next decade or so, and it has to meet the state's 33pc by 2020 renewable portfolio standard, forcing the city to look for generation resources.
The report suggests that municipal projects, net metering programs and feed-in-tariff policies would help reach 1,500MW of solar. The department's feed-in-tariff can play a major role but so far only 6.5MW out of 100MW authorized under the program is in operation. The utility needs more resources and should streamline the application process for the program to speed deployment, the report says. Feed-in-tariffs are similar to long-term standard power purchase contracts that typically price renewable energy based on its levelized costs or the value of a project's generation output.
The findings were presented last week as part of the Los Angeles Business Council's Solar Roundtable meeting. The universities plan to release the full report soon.
Though California has no coal capacity within its borders, the state imports electricity from coal-fired generators in neighboring states. The department has 2,500-3,000MW of coal capacity, but plans to exit from those contracts by around 2025.
The city may face more pressure to boost renewables as the state legislature is considering raising the renewables target to 50pc of sales by 2030. Under the current mandate at least 75pc of the 2020 target must be met using resources connected to the state grid.
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