LADWP Announces Improvements to Customer Experience
|LOS ANGELES — To improve the experience of customers who participate in the net meter Solar Incentive Program, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) announced actions today aimed at reducing delays, streamlining the program, and increasing transparency.
“We recognize that our solar customers have become frustrated with longer than normal response times and the challenges of navigating through the application, review, inspection and rebate processes to receive the incentives and turn on their solar systems,” said LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards. “We want to make it easier for customers to go solar so they can benefit from the city’s abundant sunshine by controlling a portion of their electricity costs, while helping to green the grid.”
Today, LADWP published on its website two Mayor’s Dashboards to keep customers informed of the progress and improvements to the Department’s two popular solar programs. The Solar Incentive Program Dashboard displays the rate of incoming applications and performance metrics that are updated weekly. These track the backlog of rebate checks that need processing and set reduction targets. They also show the current and targeted turn-around times at key stages of the process.
The second dashboard focuses on the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) 100 megawatt program, through which LADWP purchases solar power that is built in the city by a third party. The dashboard displays metrics regarding the length of time and schedule to process applications for FiT contracts at key points in the process. Both dashboards summarize issues facing the solar programs, actions being taken to resolve them, and future activities.
LADWP is working to clear a backlog of applications for solar rebates and pending rebate checks to reduce customer wait times. The backlog grew over the last six months of 2013 due to a dramatic increase in applications, along with challenges in maintaining adequate staff to keep pace with the workload. Customers submitted an average of 428 applications per month between July and December 2013, compared to 265 per month between January and June 2012—a 38% increase. In addition, over 60 percent of applications are for leased systems, which have typically taken longer to process and approve.
LADWP has taken corrective actions to reduce the backlog, improve customer service, and streamline the program, including:
LADWP is also evaluating additional improvements such as:
Concurrently with efforts being made at LADWP, the solar permitting process at the Department of Building and Safety is being streamlined and simplified, with the vast majority of residential permits soon to be available online and additional training of field inspectors to deliver consistent and timely customer service.
These efforts are expected to save solar installers — and their customers — hundreds of dollars on solar PV systems by reducing trips to DBS for simple permits and ensuring that inspection issues are dealt with promptly. As this streamlining process moves forward, DBS will work with industry stakeholders to continuously deal with the introduction of new technologies in this rapidly evolving sector.
LADWP is also working to correct billing problems including delayed bills, or in some cases, no bills at all. This occurred because of a problem with the interface between the meter reading system and the newly implemented customer information system. This caused the meter reads of many solar customers to not register in the new billing system. Prior to implementing the new billing system, all solar customer bills were calculated manually.
LADWP has resolved the interface issue and is mailing updated bills to solar customers, along with letters of apology to explain what happened. Because several billing cycles may have elapsed since the customer’s last bill, it’s likely that the new bill will be higher than expected.
To help mitigate the impacts caused by delayed bills, LADWP offers payment plans, which can be arranged by calling 1-800-342-5397. Customers are encouraged to use the Personal Call Back feature if they do not want to wait on hold. This feature allows callers to receive a call back from a Customer Service Representative.