The Clean Tech Race: NY takes its mark with a $1.5 billion solar program expansion

Following on yesterday’s announcement from Governor Cuomo for a 10-year, $1.5 billion expansion of the NY-Sun program, we wanted to offer some additional color on what exactly this means for NY’s rapidly growing solar market.

As we reported on Wednesday, we’ve spent the past several years calling upon the Governor and New York’s policy makers to establish a long-term solar program supported by prudent incentives and solar friendly regulations. The conception and rollout of the NY-Sun program in 2012 was without question a tremendous step in the right direction and responsible for deploying solar throughout NY today. We are therefore extremely pleased that the Governor is stepping forward with leadership and embracing the vision for a world-class solar market and success in the clean-tech race.

On your mark…

But there is much work ahead for turning rhetoric into reality. We look forward to working with the Governor to memorialize a long-term NY-Sun program and will soon call upon the NY legislature to seal the deal. Despite the challenge of navigating the Governor’s NY-Sun Act through the always unpredictable Senate and Assembly, it’s clear the Cuomo administration desires to be a clean-tech leader and is looking for like-minded partners in the Capitol.

Along with last year’s rollout of the NY-Sun Initiative, over the years the state has successfully developed solar programs and policies that are supporting solar development today. Now that NY-Sun is taking hold and creating solar opportunities for New Yorkers today, the Governor is clearly ready to increase its distance and propel towards solar market transformation at a clip of $150 million per year through 2023.

Along with the Governor’s firm solar commitment, he’s called for a $1 billion green bank and a suite of other proposals that round out an ambitious but achievable clean energy package. Referring time and again to Hurricane Sandy and his firm belief that climate change is real, Cuomo also called for increased emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and the creation of the Charge NY Plan that will deploy a network of 3,000 charging stations for plug-in vehicles.

And at the center of it all will be our colleague Richard Kauffman, (currently senior advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu) who was appointed by the Governor to a new cabinet-level NY Energy Czar position, and will be calling the shots and leading efforts on energy policy and finance.

Get set…

Here at Vote Solar, we’ve been waxing poetic for some time about many of the ideas put forth during yesterday’s State of the State. We have a host of ideas at the ready that we believe will make NY-Sun bigger and better, and set New York on course to the world-class solar market that it deserves. Our 4-point solar policy blueprint fits squarely upon the Governor’s vision and the current NY-Sun program, and we are confident these policies will build a sustainable market where cost-competitive solar energy is a core component of a 21st century energy infrastructure.

Here’s the skinny of our 4-point plan – Solar Energy for a Stronger NY

1. Design NY-Sun incentives to deliver 1,000 MW by 2016 and drive market transformation

We wholeheartedly agree that the Governor’s long-term commitment to the NY-Sun program will deliver in this regard. Nonetheless, we believe that the State needs to design its programs with a clear and predictable path. We propose a declining-block incentive structure and aggressive wholesale procurement programs to help build a market that doesn’t require incentives.

2. Reduce costs and eliminate barriers for solar development

With paperwork and administrative costs representing around half the cost of today’s solar projects, simplifying solar permitting and securing solar friendly regulations is a must-do for any state looking to lead on solar. We propose streamlining permitting and increasing net metering thresholds to accommodate solar deployment under the NY-Sun program of today and tomorrow.

3. Unleash private sector investment through broader access to solar

With a 10-year NY-Sun expansion, it will be imperative to enable New Yorkers to participate in the solar economy as never before while providing low-cost financing options to spur more private solar investment. We propose quick adoption of shared solar and group purchasing programs along with innovative financing mechanisms such as the Governor’s $1 billion green bank proposal.

4. Maximize grid resiliency using solar energy

The Governor dubbed his State of the State address, NY Rising. We applaud the Governor for looking to clean energy in a post-Sandy world and prioritizing distributed energy solutions. We propose market access for combined solar and storage technologies through targeted incentives, and deployment and positioning of solar to strengthen energy resiliency of critical infrastructure.

The Gov is ready for this race, the industry is ready for this race, and we’re ready too. Just need someone to say…Go!

We’re looking at you NY legislature.