Getting Shared Renewables Back on Track in New York

Earlier this week, we joined an impressive set of partners – the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), Sierra Club, New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA), Pace Energy and Climate Center, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Solar One and Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition – to call on New York leaders to put the state’s stalled shared renewables program back on track so that solar can shine for renters, low-income families and millions of other New Yorkers.

Ground breaking ceremony

As you may recall, last July, New York launched its innovative Community Distributed Generation program to expand access to the direct benefits of solar through community shared renewable energy projects.

Community distributed generation provides every New Yorker the opportunity to participate in the state’s vibrant solar economy. With one small clarification of the program rules, state leaders can deliver on the promise of community solar and accelerate our transition to a healthier, more resilient clean energy future.

That promise has stalled in recent months due to questions raised about how the community solar program design fits with New York’s larger Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. New York’s program has attracted significant interest from both local communities and national solar providers, which have initiated early stage development across the state, but no projects have been built nearly a year after the launch of the program. And so, our groups filed a petition with the State of New York Public Service Commission asking for clarity on customer crediting in the short-term to allow projects to start while the Commission continues to pursue that longer-term REV process.

The July 2015 PSC order establishing the state’s community solar program called for customers who participate in community solar to receive the same credit for the output of their solar panels in the shared array as customers who put solar on their own roof receive for the solar energy they send to the grid. More than 70 community, equity, environmental and industry organizations had joined together in applauding state leaders for their commitment to a healthier, more resilient clean energy system that creates opportunities for all New Yorkers to thrive.

In last July’s Order, the Commission suggested that the state’s community solar program might evolve as part of the state’s ongoing REV Initiative, but that the Commission felt it was important to launch the program at that time to get community solar started in New York. The groups petitioning today agree with that assessment and are asking for the PSC to reaffirm its original commitment to community solar in the state.

Our partners expressed their support for the petition and called for swift action:

“The Public Service Commission showed remarkable leadership in launching New York’s community solar program last summer,” declared CCSA Executive Director Jeff Cramer. “Now we need them to demonstrate that they remain committed to development of community solar in the state by taking action immediately to provide the necessary investment certainty for both consumers and developers.

“Before the state launched its community solar program last July, the majority of New Yorkers were shut out of the solar market. Pending this requested clarification from the PSC, our member companies are poised to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in New York State to help fulfill the promise of the state’s bold action last summer, making affordable local clean energy an option for all customers and helping to meet the administration’s economic development goals.”

“Increasing access to clean energy, like solar, is critical in ensuring all New Yorkers have the opportunity to do their part in the fight against global climate disruption,” said Lisa Dix, New York Senior Representative of the Sierra Club. “This petition guarantees that all residents will have the opportunity to invest in clean energy with confidence. We hope that the Public Service Commission will act swiftly on this important issue.”

“The solar industry already employs over 8,000 New Yorkers, and community solar will serve as an even greater economic driver across the state – that’s why you saw it highlighted as part of the Governor’s State of Opportunity Agenda and REV initiative,” said Carlo Lanza, President of NYSEIA. “We are confident the PSC understands the importance of a stable business environment, and will provide the clarity needed for construction of these community solar projects to go forward.”

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