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Customers Furious DWP Is Stalling Their Plans To Go Green

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David_Goldstein_08062010 David Goldstein
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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.

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