LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The push to go green is making some DWP customers turn red with anger.

“I definitely think this is the way to go,” said Woodland Hills resident Glen Cronin.

He laid out $60,000 for these panels to be installed on the roof of his Woodland Hills home last February hoping the sun would reduce his DWP bills, which run more than a $1,000 every two months.

“That’s a lot of money,” Cronin remarked.

But, four months later, the “Do Not Operate” tag is still on the power switch because DWP hasn’t given Cronin the green light to go green — or the thousands of dollars in promised rebates.

“This is more than incompetence,” Cronin said. “This is incompetence on a scale I can’t believe.”

DWP claims it has to inspect the system before it can be turned on. They even sent a flyer warning legal action if customers do it without their permission.

And Cronin’s not alone.

“Frustrating? Of course it’s frustrating.”

Lee Walker spent $45,000 in February for his solar system on the roof of his home in Liemert Park.

But his TV and lights still aren’t powered by the solar panels on his roof because his unit also hasn’t been inspected and approved by the DWP.

Imaging having paid for all that and not being able to use it.

“It’s as if I had taken the money out of my bank account and just put it up on the roof to sit there,” Walker said.

Part of the problem stems from DWP temporarily shutting down its solar unit back in early April. It seems that so many people were going green that the utility ran out of money for rebates.

However, for those who have already paid for the installation the rebate isn’t the issue any longer — they just want to be able to turn the systems on.

“The check’s been cashed, the money’s gone.”

Both men have the approval of Los Angeles Building and Safety to operate the solar systems. But, after that, DWP claims they still have to inspect, which is supposed to take about four weeks.

It’s been four months.

“We don’t see this with any other utility.”

Mark Smith is with Solar Forward, the company that installed Walker’s system.

He says once Building and Safety signs off Edision usually gives the green light in about 24 hours. But for some reason he says going green with DWP includes a lot of red tape.

“The mayor wants to go green, the governor wants to go green, people who live here want to go green,” Smith said. “LADWP does not make it easy to do that.”

You have to understand their frustrations, right?

“Sure,” said DWP General Manager Ron Nichols.

Nichols says the utility has been trying to work through an unexpected backlog caused by the rebates.

“We had a short-term situation that was a problem,” Nichols said. “We recognized it was a problem. We suspended the program so we could work through and get the problem behind us.”

The initial backlog was 800, Nichols said. That’s now been cut to 300 and he claims they’ll be caught up in 4-6 weeks.

“We’ve been working to get staff on it more quickly — get on top of that and move it forward — and we’re doing that.”

It’s not quick enough for some who want to harness the power of the sun, but so far have ended up getting burned.

Comments (19)
  1. fred says:

    Approvals of customer systems nearly stopped dead when the DWP sponsored bill to install solar panels all over the city by union labor was rejected. Hard to call it a coincidence when the union weilds so much power and the DWP is completely independant of the city.

  2. JAB says:

    DWP doesn’t want to lose it’s grip on their customers.

    1. Duh! says:

      They also don’t want to lose the high electric bills their customers still have to pay by not using their solar systems.

  3. Eco chick says:

    DWP is operating on solar guidelines instituted in the 1970s. Technology and safety has come a long way. There is no way solar panel and inverter manufacturers could obtain UL certification without stringent testing and research.
    DWPs antiquated operating procedures need to come up to speed with the rest of the industry. This gives the green movement in Los Angeles a black eye.

  4. the ronster says:

    $110,000.00 system, still not on. installed in january. DWP seems to keep changing the rules. my ispector told me the guy that “wrote the book” on the solar inspections retired so they are like starting over with the learing curve. (idiots) DWP is knitpicking at the installs right down to a line item on signage requiring the name of someone at dwp!

  5. Jeff B. says:

    I am another one of those frustrated people who are waiting for DWP to turn on our solar system. It only took a few weeks to install last November. Then it took about 4-5 months to process all the paperwork and now we’ve been waiting almost 2 more months for an inspector to come turn the solar system on.

    That’s the difference between a government agency and the private sector. No one would tolerate this kind of inefficiency if there was adequate competition. If DWP were a private company in a competitive market, surely they would ramp up their services in response to an increase in demand. If not, they would lose business to their competitors and risk failing. However with government services, they simply line people up in long queues grind to a slow pace (DMV, post office, road construction, health care, etc). Why should they care if people have to wait 4 months or longer since they don’t have to worry about losing customers?

    1. Marisa says:

      Couldn’t agree more! They also need to work on being able to choose which cable company you have instead of Time Warner or Charter only servicing certain areas and there not being any over lap.

  6. EGarcia says:

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE… This happened to me too! YES LADWP vacillated on their own rules and procedures so that they didn’t turn it on our Solar. It was like paying for a huge paperweight on our roof when they did not turn it on. We had our solar installed in December 2010 and was not turned on until middle April 2011. It was a big chunk of change to have it installed and than continue to pay LADWP’s bills. They were the ones holding up and it was so irritating that I wrote the White House about my issue. What is the use of implementing Green initiatives on the federal level if the bottle neck of turning on the solar is a regional and within the system itself. They said they are understaffed in respect to processing their paperwork but how can that be since they charge so much in electricity? Shouldn’t charging so much enable them to hire more people to handle the paperwork? VERY SAD!

  7. Craziness says:

    I think those with the installed solar panels who are waiting need to get a percentage credit on their bill for every month they have waited for inspection.

    That is ridiculous and incompetent.

    Just hire some damn weekend people, and get your work done!

    1. EGarcia says:

      This is a great idea!

  8. Sam Davis says:

    The real crime here is that the city is causing homeowners to install solar systems underwhich the homeowner will never get its investment back, under the guise of ‘rebates’. Solar panel pricing has declined significantly in the past 2 years, yet retail pricing for individual homeowners has not gone down.

    Most of the City of Los Angeles does not have sufficient unblocked sunlight to make the panels effective. Clouds, fog and trees significantly reduce the energy created.

    If the city is serious about solar energy, it would build large systems in the desert. This is where the other utilities and private investors are creating clean energy.

  9. David Barron says:

    A less expensive Solar Cell will eventually be available. University of Berkley has been working on such a cell. So hold off if you can. However, for the mechanically inclined. Rejected good solar panels were available at the junk yard very cheaply. They may also still be available on EBay. And, any alterations on your building structure will require an appliication for a permit from the City of LA.

    I’m voting ‘NO’ on any DWP rate increases, because City of LA revenues have been at an all-time high since 2006. View the City’s adopted budgets for years 2005 thru 2010.
    A DWP informational presentation may be coming to your area, to try and convince you to approve another rate increase. The presentation is like sitting in on those sales presentations, where they’re trying to get you to buy into something. If this is not another DWP “SCAM,’ like your ‘SOLAR PANEL’ fiasco, then, why isn’t DWP allowing an opposing view point to be presented to the DWP customers?

    I’m former city council candidate, David Barron.

  10. Brian Wilkinson says:

    I have worked for solar forward for five years and we have never had a Walter work at Solar forward. Walter must work for LADWP or another solar company. I take care of most of the inspections and we get complements from the inspectors over the quality of our work. Check out the pictures and videos at http://www.solarforward.com and you can see the great work we do. This is why we have 100% customer satisfaction.

    1. Marisa says:

      Mark Smith is with Solar Forward, the company that installed Walker’s system. – MARK SMITH is the employee with Solar Forward. Not Walter. The customer’s name is also WALKER not Walter. Try making sure that what you are saying is correct before you comment.

  11. Solarboy says:

    I work for a well know solar company and have done scores of PV systems in LADWP territory over many years. I can tell you that LADWP does NOT want you to have solar on your home. They have PUPOSELY understaffed their rebate dept. for years (like 2 -3 people) Pam was great, we’ll miss her but not the huge stack of rebate applications she had on her desk. Now they have backed up the inspections too. Does anybody really think that the utility company that services the second largest city in America can’t do these jobs if they want to? LADWP has thousands of employees and mega millions of dollars. The rate payers need a lawsuit against these crooks. The only way they want solar is if it is on their own buildings or it is installed by their own IBEW crews at mega dollars per hour wages. You need to understand that the LADWP is the primary source of income for the city of LA and it is not just staffed by IBEW workers… it is controlled by the IBEW. And the IBEW does not answer to the citizens of LA. I am green and pro-union, but the IBEW is all about money and power and LA ratepayers and us small solar contractors are suffering because of it.

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