Expanding Local Clean Energy Could Save New York $28 Billion by 2050
New data supports Governor Hochul’s distributed generation targets to meet clean energy and climate justice commitments
Albany, NY — A report released today by Vote Solar and Local Solar for All reveals that meeting and exceeding the Hochul Administration’s new 10-gigawatt distributed solar power target by investing in rooftop and community solar, and battery storage is the lowest-cost and most equitable path to achieving New York’s climate commitments. According to the new analysis by grid modeling experts Vibrant Clean Energy, building an electricity system that combines and efficiently leverages more local solar and batteries alongside utility-scale renewables can save the state $28 billion over the next 30 years, while improving resilience in overburdened communities and creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.
The study investigated the lowest cost path to meeting the decarbonization and climate justice mandates of New York’s landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The law, which was passed in 2019, requires New York to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and mandates that 40% of state climate and energy funding be invested in disadvantaged communities (DACs).
The study was conducted using Vibrant Clean Energy’s WIS:dom®-P model, a state-of-the-art planning tool that uses advanced analytics to produce an inclusive picture of grid resources, costs and benefits. National modeling with WIS:dom®-P demonstrated that optimizing the power grid for distributed energy resources (local solar and storage) results in the lowest cost transition to 100% clean electricity.
Primary takeaways from the analysis include:
- Accelerating the growth of local solar + battery storage on New York’s electric grid can save New York more than $28 billion by 2050 compared to achieving CLCPA goals without a focus on distributed energy.
- The least-cost clean energy transition builds more than 60% of rooftop solar and almost 30% of battery storage in Disadvantaged Communities.
- The least-cost implementation of the CLCPA calls for roughly 50% of New York’s electricity capacity coming from solar, including nearly 22 GW from community and rooftop solar and almost 84 GW from utility-scale solar. Optimizing this transition for distributed energy resources would also enable the deployment of more than 17 GW of distributed battery storage across the state.
- Sustained local solar and storage growth in New York will create more than 160,000 local solar jobs by 2050.
“These results show that deep decarbonization and energy justice are mutually supportive goals,” says Stephan Roundtree, Jr., Northeast Director at Vote Solar. “We can and must meet New York’s carbon reduction mandates by deeply investing in community-led solar and storage projects in Disadvantaged Communities.”
WIS:dom®-P analyzes trillions of data points, including every potential energy resource and the direct costs and benefits associated with bringing the most cost effective resource mix to the electric grid. The model takes into account and enhances the delivery of local solar and storage generation located closer to customers on the distribution side of the grid.
“This research makes it clear that distributed solar and storage should play a central role in helping New York achieve its climate and clean energy goals at the lowest cost while also building a stronger, more resilient and equitable energy grid,” said Kaitlin Kelly O’Neill, Northeast Regional Director, Coalition for Community Solar Access. “We applaud Governor Hochul and NYSERDA for their commitment to distributed energy and urge them to scale DG programs so we can deliver clean energy savings and equity in the clean energy economy to all New Yorkers, especially those who need these benefits most.”
In addition to the money that local solar and batteries save the grid, distributed energy resources provide tremendous societal benefits, including: increased energy equity; greater individual and community resilience during blackouts and extreme weather; local job creation and economic activity; greater reductions in air pollution; the ability to achieve clean energy goals on a faster timeline; and the opportunity to provide consumers with a tangible and meaningful mechanism for reducing climate change that furthers public support of other climate solutions.
In September 2021, Governor Kathy Hochul called for the expansion of the NY-SUN Program to at least ten gigawatts of distributed solar by 2030, an increase over the existing six gigawatt target which is on pace to be met before 2025.
“Prioritizing local solar and energy storage is key to meeting New York’s clean energy targets with less air pollution and carbon emissions, more customer savings, and more job creation,” said Rob Sargent, Campaign Director, Local Solar for All. “We hope that New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the Department of Public Service will incorporate these findings into utility regulation going forward and allow rooftop and community solar and battery storage to grow.”
“The analysis is clear: Governor Hochul’s 10 gigawatt distributed energy goal will put New York on a path to decarbonization, but we could reach our climate targets even faster if we deploy more distributed solar + storage,” said David Gahl, senior director of state policy, East for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “The study also found that optimizing solar + storage deployment could be an economic boon for New York, helping the state save $29 billion in CLPCA implementation costs and add 100,000 new jobs by 2050. We look forward to working with the Public Service Commission to finalize the roadmap and create even more well-paying solar jobs for New Yorkers.”
Partner organizations offered the below comments:
“The importance of distributed energy resources in meeting the affordable and sustainable energy needs of low-income communities and communities of color cannot be overstated,” said Jasmine Graham, Energy Justice Policy Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “Not only are the barriers to solar adoption the greatest for these communities, but they also face a disproportionately higher energy cost burden, so the savings will have more of an impact.”
“The clean energy modeling completed by Vote Solar and its partners affirms that building solar and storage in disadvantaged communities is more than a moral imperative; Said Noah Ginsburg, Director for the Here Comes Solar Initiative at Solar One, “it is a smart investment that will provide major system-wide savings and help New York cost-effectively achieve the clean energy and equity goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”
“This groundbreaking research shows that in order to save ratepayers billions of dollars, the state must make major changes in how solar is incentivized to focus many more resources on rooftop and community scale solar, particularly in disadvantaged communities. Additionally, robust workforce development programs prioritizing those same communities are required both to expand the workforce needed and to meet climate justice mandates in the climate and community protection act,” Adam Flint, Director of Clean Energy Programs at the Network for a Sustainable Tomorrow said. “We look forward to working with NYSERDA to co-design the new programs needed to meet these challenges.”
“The VCE report shows that distributed solar and storage, in an optimized system, are a win-win for NY,” said Allison Considine, NY Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club. “They can facilitate the achievement of our climate goals while reducing energy burden and spurring in-state job growth. Ambitious targets, incentives, and support to ensure that these resources benefit disadvantaged communities will help move us to a cleaner, smarter electric system.”
“Optimizing the electric grid for large amounts of distributed solar and energy storage over the next 25 years will be the most cost-effective way for New York to reduce carbon pollution and deliver environmental justice to disadvantaged communities,” said NYSEIA Board President Daniel Hendrick. “NYSEIA and its member companies encourage state officials to incorporate the findings from the Vibrant Clean Energy report into their planning process for New York’s solar future.”