This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Solar workforce ready, if only L.A. had jobs

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Thousands of workers are trained and ready to create a solar-panel revolution in Los Angeles, if only city policies would goose the market and create jobs, UCLA and other researchers said Wednesday.
 
The researchers presented their report at UCLA during the Los Angeles Business Council's annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation and Jobs Summit, which was also attended by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and mayoral hopefuls City Council President Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilwoman Jan Perry.
 
J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and a professor of public policy at UCLA's Luskin School of Public Affairs, and USC professor Manuel Pastor, director of USC's Program for Environment and Regional Equity, led the research teams that prepared the report, "Empowering LA's Solar Workforce: New Policies That Deliver Investments and Jobs."
 
A key step forward in employing trained solar workers and increasing the city's reliance on clean energy would be adopting policies making it easier for businesses and residents to install rooftop solar panels and sell surplus energy to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the report says. DeShazo's research guided the city in developing a blueprint for such a program, called a solar feed-in tariff program, or FiT.
 
"They could do it right now," DeShazo said. "The feed-in tariff program is not that expensive, but it is so popular that it's a great bargaining chip."
 
Instead of implementing a solar FiT program, the DWP hopes to offer it as a part of a package of improvements the utility could make with revenue from a rate increase, DeShazo explained.
 
"They do need a rate increase," he said, noting that a whole suite of improvements are needed for the DWP to incorporate more renewable energy into its resources. "But the FiT is not the reason for an increase."
 
Most of the mayoral candidates, including Garcetti, Greuel and Perry, support a FiT, DeShazo said. The trio spoke about housing, jobs and the workforce on a panel moderated by UCLA senior fellow and Los Angeles Times editor-at-large Jim Newton. Villaraigosa delivered the summit's keynote address, "Building a More Livable City."
 
The solar-energy report estimated that more than 2,200 people are trained every year in Los Angeles County for clean-energy solar jobs in installation, design, sales and more, a Los Angeles Business Council fact sheet explained.
 
"Many of these training programs are located near 'hotspots' — areas with great potential for solar-power generation — that coincide with areas that have high unemployment and economic need," the LABC fact sheet said. "City leaders have failed to enact energy policies to take advantage of this ready resource, and put L.A. residents to work."
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