Los Angeles voters appeared to have narrowly defeated a contentious ballot measure that would have required its utility to boost its solar electricity supply by 2014.
Measure B received 50.3 percent of "no" vote, according to results from Tuesday's election. The results are unofficial for now because the L.A. City Clerk's Office is still tallying votes, which won't be certified until 21 days after the election. The final results could change from what the city posted Wednesday.
The returns showed that voters have embraced the argument that Measure B would rob business opportunities from private installers of solar energy systems and reward power to the city's utility and City Council at the expense of the ratepayers.
Measure B. would have mandated the Los Angles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to install 400 megawatts worth of solar panels on commercial and institutional rooftops and other spaces within the L.A. basin by 2014.
The proposal drew criticism from some solar energy advocates, who questioned whether it would deliver cheaper solar power to consumers.
One of the sticking points was the ballot language that would give LADWP the authority to "install, operate, maintain and repair and/or oversee the installation, operation, maintenance and repair of solar power installations within the City and on City-owned airports." Banks and other investors can owned some of the projects by providing financing and taking advantage of tax breaks, but the LADWP would still be the one in charge of installing, operating and maintaining the systems.
The California Solar Energy Industries Association took no position on the measure, though it voices concerns about the measure's impact on private solar installers, costs to ratepayers and other issues on its Website. Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative, raised similar concerns in an opinion piece, questioning the LADWP's ability to provide cheaper solar power than private power plant developers that have been building projects to sell power to utilities up and down the state.
Supporters said the proposal would create new jobs and greatly boost the city's use of solar energy, a good thing considering that half of the city's electricity production comes from coal-fired power plants.
Opponents said the proposal is a shrewd attempt to shut out private solar energy installers and transfer an oversight authority of the program from a five-member commission to the City Council.
The utility worker's union supported Measure B, so did Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The California League of Conservation Voters said Measure B would speed up solar energy developments in the city, which is generating 13 megawatts of solar power – less than 1 percent of the city's electricity supply. The Sierra Club also supports the measure.
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