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Giving Thanks for our Region’s Resources: The Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report

Thanksgiving is a time for family, food and reflection about the blessings we have.  In southern California we are blessed with abundant sunshine. And yet millions of rooftops go untapped to harness  this renewable energy, and the jobs that would go along with it. Many of these same buildings also hold significant opportunity for energy efficiency improvements, which could increase comfort while decreasing energy costs for families, businesses and taxpayers. This is an especially good thing with the Holiday giving season upon us.

But where exactly are the best opportunities and where are the resources to support these investments? A new study I authored for UCLA and EDF maps out the needs for these investments–a hotter climate and other environmental health threats–and the opportunities–rooftop solar capacity and energy efficiency potential for all of the approximately two million parcels in LA County. The report comes at an important time as the State is making decisions about how to invest $billions on energy efficiency and other climate mitigation efforts. Findings are summarized below for this Los Angeles Solar and Efficinecy Report (LASER): Atlas of Investment Potential for LA County. With its many maps and illustrations, It could even make a coffee table gift for your nerdy loved ones.

Study Summary

Today, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Environmental Defense Fund released a set of maps titled “Los Angeles Solar and Efficiency Report (LASER): Atlas of Investment Potential for LA County,” which shows that nearly 29,000 local job years could be created if merely 5 percent of the rooftop solar energy generating potential in LA County was realized.

Capturing this 5 percent of solar capacity would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.25 million tons, equivalent to avoiding the emissions of more than 250,000 cars annually.

LASER maps also indicate that nearly 1.5 million buildings in LA County were built before energy efficiency codes went into effect. This means that 80% of all buildings in LA County have elevated potential for cost-saving, energy efficiency investments.

The LASER Atlas contains profiles of 9 sub-regions across LA County, mapping the areas in each sub-region where there is elevated potential for solar generation and energy efficiency improvements for local buildings. The LASER Atlas also identifies where these investments are needed the most. There is significant overlap between areas of strong physical potential as defined by infrastructure, and disadvantaged areas as identified by environmental health and socioeconomic data.

EDF commissioned and the Luskin Center produced the LASER Atlas to provide a tool to help local decision-makers and community members think strategically about investing new state funding. In particular, cap-and-trade proceeds stemming from AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, and Proposition 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, will results in billions of dollars to mitigate climate change pollution, expand renewable energy generation, and create jobs in California.

“Together, the Luskin Center and EDF have created a powerful resource that can help the LA region unlock a cleaner energy future,” said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. “Combined with California’s innovative climate policies, the ‘LASER’ Atlas can impact how the region invests new state resources to address pressing environmental challenges while providing job opportunities in its most impacted communities.”

“This study sends a clear message to Angelenos – the potential to invest in LA’s clean, renewable energy economy and build healthier communities is huge. We hope these maps become an effective tool for local elected officials and community advocates as they look to seize those opportunities,” said Jorge Madrid, coordinator of partnerships and alliances with EDF.

Many state leaders have already worked to ensure renewables, including solar, become a staple of California’s energy supply and economic growth.  AB 1532, sponsored by the Speaker of the Assembly John A. Pérez, sets up a broad framework for how cap-and-trade auction proceeds should be allocated in the coming years. It includes investing in opportunities to help California reach its mandated goal of 33% renewable energy by 2020, and directing at least 25 percent of proceeds to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities. 

“California has become a global leader in combating climate change, due in part to innovative state policies and projects like the ‘LASER’ maps that provide us with a pathway to lower emissions and a more sustainable economy,” said Speaker Pérez.

The LASER Atlas underscores how energy efficiency investments can reduce demand for electricity, thus lowering climate change emissions while at the same time making buildings more livable and saving money for residents, businesses and taxpayers.

This is important because under a “business-as-usual” scenario, the LA region is projected to experience a tripling in the number of extreme heat days in the downtown and urban core by mid-century, and four times the number of heat days in the valleys and at higher elevations, according to a separate UCLA study lead by Alex Hall, and mapped in the LASER Atlas.

Highlights of Media Coverage

Los Angeles Times: Rooftop solar could generate jobs

E&E, ClimateWire: L.A. County pushed as high-payoff place to invest Calif. clean energy funds

Greentech Media: New mapping tool designed to target clean energy investment in LA 

KCET: Study: L.A. County could power half of California with rooftop solar

Manhattan Beach Patch: UCLA study says tackling energy efficiency, climate change could bring economic gain

Solar Industry Magazine: Investment atlas a model for regional development