California is a clean energy leader. Ahead of schedule, the state met its target of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. Senate Bill 100, passed in 2018, increases other targets for renewable energy to achieve 100 percent zero-carbon energy by 2045. Much of the cost-effective renewable energy is coming from large, utility-scale wind, solar, and hydropower operations.  Small-scale solar installations are also part of the solution and can provide local economic development, employment, and customer cost-saving benefits.

Research by the Luskin Center for Innovation (LCI) has influenced the design and implementation of distributed energy policy and investments. The focus has been on helping to bring renewable energy to all types of communities, including low-income areas disproportionately impacted by pollution from fossil-fuel powered energy and transportation. (See our Transportation Program page for research on transportation electrification.) Our renewable energy-focused research includes the following projects.

Realized Benefits and Recommendations for the Nation’s Largest Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Program (current study)
Researchers: J.R. DeShazo, Julien Gattaciecca, and Kelly Trumbull

This study is the latest in a series of LCI reports (see below), in collaboration with the Los Angeles Business Council, that influenced the design and now implementation of the nation’s largest renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT) program, which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power administers. LCI is analyzing the program’s progress to date. This includes quantifying the realized benefits of the FiT program and interviewing solar developers and other stakeholders to identify lessons learned, the program’s strengths and weaknesses, and innovative approaches that were undertaken by program applicants to overcome existing barriers. Finally, researchers will identify policy recommendations to improve future FiT programs.

In April, 2019 several news outlets published articles (1234) about the FiT Program and calls for an expansion of it. The articles quoted LCI director J.R. DeShazo describing program benefits. However, the articles mis-attributed a greenhouse gas emissions estimate to the pilot program; this estimation came from an earlier report and referred to the FiT program in a different context). Today, LCI estimates that the avoided GHG emissions from the FiT program are 68,500 metric tons per year. 

Golden Opportunity: Affordable Housing in the Solar Metropolis (2017 report)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo, Michael Kadish, and Alex Turek

While Los Angeles County is a national leader in the adoption of residential solar, most early adopters are affluent households who can afford the up-front investment cost, a common technology adoption trend that has resulted in an inequitable distribution of solar and its benefits. Yet low-income households typically spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs and thus stand to benefit most from utility bill savings associated with solar systems. A report by LCI and GRID Alternatives assesses the barriers to solar adoption for low-income residents and provides a roadmap for how they could be overcome by unlocking millions of dollars in state incentives for residential solar on affordable housing.

Guide to Design Decisions for Utility-Sponsored Community Solar (2015 report)
Authors:  J.R. DeShazo, Alex Turek, and Michael Samulon

Community solar continues to spread across the country for solar access and environmental equity reasons. This LCI report identifies and clarifies important junctures in decision-making when utilities design a community solar program. This includes the importance of garnering support from potential participants, non-participating ratepayers, and the community at large.

Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report: Part of President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative (2014 report)
Authors: Colleen Callahan, J.R. DeShazo, Henry McCann, and Norman Wong

In response to, and recognized by President Obama’s Climate Data Initiative, the UCLA Luskin Center and Environmental Defense Fund released the latest version of the Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER). LASER is a data-driven mapping tool designed to help communities identify opportunities to invest in projects that will save households money, create clean energy jobs, and strengthen climate resilience. The tool illustrates existing pollution and climate change impacts at a community level and illustrates “hot spots” ripe for rooftop solar investment and energy efficiency building potential at the parcel level.

Planning for Port Energy Resiliency (2013 report)
Authors: Ryan Matulka, J.R. DeShazo, and Colleen Callahan

The San Pedro Bay Ports, comprising the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, are the two busiest ports in the U.S. The Aquamarine Institute, with support from the San Pedro Bay Ports, commissioned LCI to create a framework to study electricity consumption and evaluate energy management strategies at the San Pedro Bay Ports. The report served as a foundation for future energy management planning by the San Pedro Bay Ports, including energy efficiency and local energy generation.

Achieving Prop 39’s Clean Energy Promise (2013 report)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo, Colleen Callahan, and Elizabeth Beryt

The California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39), passed by voters in November of 2012, allocates up to $550 million per year for five years to energy efficiency and clean energy projects in California’s public schools, community colleges, universities, and other public facilities. An LCI report, commissioned by the Los Angeles Business Council, analyzed strategies for the implementation of Proposition 39 funds to help maximize long-term investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, and the associated jobs and other benefits for Californians. The authors found that Proposition 39 funds could quadruple through the use of revolving investment mechanisms. The research helped informed actions on Proposition 39 funds and other related campaigns.

Los Angeles County Solar Atlas (2011 tool)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo, Ryan Matulka, and Norman Wong

This atlas has helped cities, electricity utilities, and potential solar investors understand their solar rooftop potential so that they may be better stewards of the resource. Each map presents the geographical distribution of solar potential across neighborhoods and parcels. The maps are accompanied by a description of how the solar potential varies across single- and multi-family residences, commercial and industrial parcels, and nonprofit and government parcels since the economic benefits and policy incentives may vary accordingly. Because cost-effectiveness increases with the size of a solar installation, the atlas also presents, for each jurisdiction, the number of potential solar projects by size and total rooftop potential.

Report Series Evaluating and Influencing the Design and Implementation of the Nation’s Largest Solar Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program (2010 – 2014 reports)
Authors: See individual reports below

In partnership with the Los Angeles Business Council and the CLEAN LA Coalition, LCI produced a series of reports that informed the development, and now implementation, of the Feed-in-Tariff program offered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The largest such program in the country, it serves as a lesson for other parts of the nation while supporting the local solar workforce and economic development. Reports by LCI researchers follow.

Sharing Solar’s Promise: Harnessing LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity (2014 report)
Authors from UCLA’s LCI: J.R. DeShazo and Alex Turek
Authors from the University of Southern California: Manuel Pastor, Mirabai Auer, and Chad Horsford

FIT 100 in Los Angeles: An Evaluation of Early Progress (2014 report)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo and Alex Turek

Empowering LA’s Solar Workforce: New Policies that Deliver Investments and Jobs (2011)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo, Manuel Pastor, and Mirabai Auer

Making a Market: Multifamily Rooftop Solar and Social Equity in Los Angeles (2011)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo, Manuel Pastor, Mirabai Auer, Vanessa Carter, and Nicholas Vartanian

Implementing Feed-in Tariff Programs: Comparative Analyses and Lessons Learned (2011)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo and Ryan Matulka

Bringing Solar Energy to Los Angeles: An Assessment of the Feasibility and Impacts on an In-Basin Solar Feed-in-Tariff Program (2010)
Authors: J.R. DeShazo and Ryan Matulka

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