The Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners Tuesday approved a program that would create an option for renters to buy electricity from solar panels installed around the city.

Previously, solar energy was available mostly to residents of single-family homes. The Shared Solar Pilot Program unanimously approved by the board would be available to 13,000 customers, with the ability to scale up the program if it is successful.

The program, which still needs approval of the City Council, would have the LADWP install large-scale photovoltaic solar plants in and near the L.A. basin, and allow customers with accounts associated with multifamily dwelling units to sign up to buy for blocks of energy. The program would allow them to replace a portion of their electrical energy use at a fixed rate for the life of the program — 10 years — which should make it easier to manage electrical costs, according to an LADWP report.

The program would include no upfront costs or cancellation fees for customers, and cost the LADWP an estimated $79 million over 20 years. The costs of the program are expected to be recovered by the revenue generated by customers and will help the LADWP meet its goal of getting 55 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, according to the report.

LADWP plans to introduce the Shared Solar Pilot Program in 2019.

A long line of environmental activists and other supporters of solar energy spoke in favor of the program at the meeting.

“We know that many of the customers locked out of the solar market are low-income communities of color who experience the impacts of climate change and pollution,” Jorge Madrid with the Environmental Defense Fund said.

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