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Energy-saving rebates in high demand for Glendale, Burbank

Glendale and Burbank power companies can't keep up with requests.

July 13, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Les Perkins, a Glendale resident who received a solar panel rebate from the city, had his panels installed in September. His electricity bill dropped from around $400 to $85.
Les Perkins, a Glendale resident who received a solar… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

Les Perkins is used to paying roughly $400 every two months to Glendale Water & Power, but his latest electricity bill was markedly different. He owed just $85.

"I started giggling with glee," he said.

Perkins runs a video-editing company out of his Rancho-Riverside home and the air conditioning and computer equipment can run up his electricity bills. But his green upgrade last September didn't cost him anything upfront because of a popular city subsidy and a leasing program offered by his installer.

However, Perkins had to wait six months before his solar installer could get the subsidy because demand for the city's solar rebates continually outstrips the program's budget.

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FOR THE RECORD: The photo caption in an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Les Perkins installed the solar panels himself. In fact, he had them installed. 

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The waiting time varies, but as of this week, all money set aside for rebates this year — $1.5 million — has already been reserved, so if someone applied today, they would have to wait a year, or until someone who has already been approved drops out.

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Despite the demand, there are no plans to increase the rebate budget. To do so, city officials would either have to take money from other benefit programs, such as utility subsidies for low-income customers and planting free shade trees, or increase the 3.6% "public benefits charge" that comes with every bill.

"We can't forget that money doesn't just appear. It comes from the ratepayers," said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, adding that she would like to increase the solar rebates, but council members have to be "mindful of the effect that would have on everyone in the city."

And at a time when the council is set to consider electricity rate increases that will total 24% over five years, with the first bump at 8% in August, now may not be a good time to hike the public benefits charge.

"That's why I'm a little hesitant to increase the rebate portion," said Councilman Ara Najarian. He added that some residents already complain about paying for subsidy programs.

The public benefits charge nets about $6 million annually, with about a quarter earmarked for solar rebates.

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