The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's solar rebate program is triggering complaints because of ongoing delays in its implementation.
Brian San Marco and Robin Radin had solar panels installed on the roof of their Hollywood Hills home back in July. Five months later, they're still waiting for DWP inspectors to come switch the new system on.
"You have this beautiful jewelry on my roof and it's doing nothing," San Marco told NBC4 I-Team Consumer Investigator Randy Mac. "I didn't save money that I should have saved during the later summer months or the early fall."
Solar City, the company that installed the system, didn't charge the couple for labor or materials, anticipating direct reimbursement by the DWP.
But despite having no out-of-pocket expenses, the couple is missing out on potentially hundreds of dollars in monthly savings on their electrical bill, as they wait for the utility to power up their new system.
"I'm not buying the panels. I'm buying the power generated from the panels," said San Marco.
Mike Webster, the director of the DWP's solar rebate program said agency officials recognize they aren't meeting customer expectations.
He blamed the delays on an unexpected surge in demand.
"Typically we would see somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 applications a week," Webster said. "Now we're seeing between 100 and 150 and in some months we've seen 200 to 250 applications."
The uptick in requests is due, in part, to the declining cost of solar panels.
"We realize that solar is no longer a side-business. It's no longer a boutique," Webster said. "It's something we do every day."
Webster said the DWP is working to speed up the process: several months ago, the application process alone took 12 weeks or more.
Now, Webster promised, 12 weeks is the goal to process the application, installation, inspection and activation.
San Marco and Radin finally got satisfaction after the NBC4 I-Team contacted the DWP.
While NBC4 was interviewing the couple for the story, a DWP technician appeared at the front door.
"We are well aware that this is not an exciting coincidence that DWP has decided to show up the day that NBC is here," Radin said.
The I-Team learned the DWP employs 16 technicians to inspect and activate solar panels, a process that can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours.
Webster said the utility will do better.
"Inspections are an issue and we're working to cover that," he said.