Groups Petition NY PSC to Put Community Solar Back on Track for New Yorkers

June 7th, 2016

Widely-Supported Program Would Improve Community Health, Resiliency, Opportunity through Clean Energy Access

Washington, D.C. (June 7, 2016) – The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), the Sierra Club, the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA), Vote Solar, Pace Energy and Climate Center, the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Solar One and Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition today called on New York State leaders to put the state’s stalled Community Distributed Generation (DG) program back on track so that solar can shine for renters, low-income families and millions of other New Yorkers.

Established in July 2015, New York’s innovative Community DG program was intended to expand consumer access to local solar and other clean energy resources, particularly among low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. The program allows any energy customer, regardless of whether or not they own a suitable roof, to participate in a local solar energy project and receive a credit for their portion of the clean energy produced on their utility bill. The program is now stalled due to uncertainty on how customers will be credited for their participation.

The groups filed a petition with the State of New York Public Service Commission asking for clarity on customer credit in the short-term to allow projects to start while the Commission evaluates future program design options as part of the state’s overarching Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. The petition states: “To allow development to proceed in the near term, this Petition seeks a declaratory ruling from the Commission so that projects that invest in substantial development activities under the current program rules will continue to be eligible for the current bill crediting methodology for the full lifetime of the project.”

“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.”

“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.”

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.

“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.”

 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 Reforming the Energy Vision (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.

“Community distributed generation provides every New Yorker the opportunity to participate in, and directly benefit from, the state’s vibrant solar economy,” said Sean Garren, Northeast Regional Manager for Vote Solar. “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.”

“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,” added Jeff Cramer of CCSA.

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About the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA)

Founded in February 2016, CCSA is a business-led trade organization that works to expand access to clean, local, affordable energy nationwide through community solar. Community solar refers to local solar facilities shared by individual community members, who receive credits on their electricity bills for their portion of the power produced. Community solar projects provide American homeowners, renters and businesses access to the benefits of solar energy generation unconstrained by the physical attributes of their home or business, like roof space, shading, or whether or not they own their residence or building. These programs can also expand access to solar energy to low-income households. For more information on CCSA, visit the website at www.communitysolaraccess.org, like the Coalition on Facebook at www.facebook.com/communitysolaraccess and follow the Coalition on Twitter at @solaraccess.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit: www.sierraclub.org.

About NYSEIA

NYSEIA is the only statewide membership and trade association dedicated solely to advancing solar energy use in New York. Led by a diverse Board of Directors and growing staff, NYSEIA strives to achieve responsible and sustainable solar energy adoption throughout the state that will create good-paying jobs, benefit communities and reduce environmental impacts from fossil fuels. Learn more at nyseia.org.

About Vote Solar

Vote Solar is a non-profit organization working to foster economic development and energy independence by bringing solar energy to the mainstream nationwide. Learn more at www.votesolar.org