Honoring a Champion for a Sustainable Los Angeles

Dec 2, 2014
By Jenesse Miller

This week, CLCV is proud to honor Mary Leslie, a champion for Los Angeles' clean energy future.

Leslie is president of the Los Angeles Business Council, considered one of the most effective and influential advocacy and educational organizations in California. Leslie and LABC are committed to uniting the power of business with the power of government for education and advocacy to promote environmental and economic sustainability.

Under Mary Leslie's leadership, the LABC has developed a national reputation as a catalyst for innovative policy in the fields of housing, transportation, renewable energy development, and clean technology. CLCV is thrilled to honor Mary Leslie with our Environmental Leadership Award at our annual event in Los Angeles on December 4th.

For just a glimpse of the various challenges Leslie and the LABC are committed to solving, a Los Angeles Times article described a typical day:

She might be meeting with major contributors to evaluate progress on a grant, driving to the San Fernando Valley to check out a fledgling solar installation company or researching an initiative to stop storm runoff from reaching the ocean. In spare moments, she will plot out the finer details of an upcoming summit, where government representatives, business leaders and academics will convene to solve nagging problems in housing, transportation and jobs.

Sustainability is at the core of LABC’s advocacy, research and programming efforts. Since 2009, the organization has collaborated with a wide range of stakeholders to design, develop and advocate for a rooftop solar program that would benefit Los Angeles residents, businesses and the city at large. The policy, formally called a solar “feed-in tariff,” is now known in Los Angeles by the name CLEAN LA (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now). CLEAN LA is the largest rooftop solar buyback program in the United States.

CLEAN LA’s premise is simple: in a land of abundant sunshine, rooftop solar power has the potential to be a tremendous resource that would provide significant renewable energy at a reasonable cost. The 150 Megawatt Solar Rooftop Program was proposed by LABC and adopted by the Los Angeles City Council and the LA DWP. 

Currently, most of L.A.’s renewable power is generated outside the L.A. basin and transmitted inefficiently to customers. The CLEAN LA Solar program will incentivize clean-energy production within city limits by taking advantage of L.A.’s vast, underused rooftop space. The result will be more efficient power delivery and a reduction in the city’s reliance on energy produced by coal. The program will provide environmental, economic & social benefits for all of Los Angeles, including job creation and clean reliable power that will help the city meet its renewable energy goals.

As Leslie wrote in a Huffington Post piece when the program went live in February 2013:

"Research commissioned by the LABC and conducted in partnership with UCLA and USC demonstrates that the full, 150-megawatt program will create 4,500 jobs, create a half-billion dollars of economic activity, and generate over $300 million in federal tax credits for local businesses. At the same time, the [program] will diminish the city's reliance on dirty, coal-fired power plants and eliminate 2.25 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2016.

As president of the LABC, the leading advocate of the [program] since 2009, I could not be more pleased about the launch or more excited about its prospects to accelerate the renewable energy industry in L.A. and help kick-start our economy. I am also grateful to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles City Council, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and the other visionary leaders who helped make this program a reality."

The project was three years in the making, and a major success for Leslie and for the LABC. As the Times piece points out, her passion "for LABC's core ideals — business, economic growth, sustainability — buoys Leslie through long days and longer battles. 'The key is never to think you work for a living,' she said. 'Find what you love. Don't go to work.'"

Her passion and dedication to a clean, sustainable future for Los Angeles and all of California is why CLCV will honor Mary Leslie at our annual Environmental Leadership Awards in Los Angeles this week. We hope to see you there!



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