Why do cloudy European countries produce so much more solar energy than the United States? Because countries like Germany, for example, have programs that require local utility companies to buy solar energy from local producers. This week, the city of Los Angeles moved one step closer to that type of arrangement when the LA City Council gave the green light to the Clean LA program, a feed-in tariff pilot program that will require the Department of Water and Power to buy solar power generated by local property owners.

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Los Angeles is facing a deadline to source 20 percent of its power from renewable energy by 2013 and 30 percent by 2020. The feed-in tariff program should help move the city closer to those goals, while moving its energy sources to smaller, more flexible providers. For the pilot program, the city will sign contracts to purchase energy from up to 60 property owners who produce more solar power than they use. The goal is to ultimately generate 150 megawatts of power, which would be enough to power approximately 34,000 homes.

One possible consequence of the feed-in tariff program is that it will encourage property owners to install small solar panels, increasing the demand for solar panels and creating more local clean-tech jobs. “Feed-in tariff is an opportunity for the citizens of Los Angeles to install solar on their roofs and property, connect them to the energy grid and the DWP would pay them for the power they generate,” Michael Ester, assistant DWP general manager, told the LA Daily News.

+ Clean LA

Photos via Flickr users OregonDOT, US Army Environmental Command, and Jeremy Levine