Public Service Commission Action Helps Pave the Way for Community Solar in the Empire State
Albany, NY (January 24, 2017) – Today, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted changes to the State’s Standardized Interconnection Requirements (SIR) that dictate how renewable energy and distributed generation systems sized up to five Megawatts (MW) are connected to the distribution grid. This decision provides additional clarity and certainty to the interconnection process that will enable more efficient, cost-effective solar development in New York. It will help allow community solar projects to move forward across the state, bringing access to solar to millions of New Yorkers for the first time.
Today’s decision approves the recommendations put forth jointly by the members of the Interconnection Policy Working Group (IPWG). New York Department of Public Service (DPS) Staff and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) organized and led the IPWG, which is comprised of diverse participants including the state’s investor-owned utilities, a number of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) and New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) member companies and other stakeholders.
“We thank the Commission for its action to remove key hurdles to community solar development, and for creating a forum in which utilities and solar companies could work together effectively on solutions to advance clean energy development,” said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “This marks one of the final puzzle pieces in making New York’s much-anticipated community solar market a reality.”
“Putting queue management and limited cost sharing into action, as outlined by the IPWG, is a significant step to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the interconnection process in New York,” said Valessa Souter-Kline, Policy Coordinator for the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA). “The new process reflects the commitment of both the development community and the utilities to ensure that project applications move forward fairly and efficiently, resulting in more clean solar energy generation in the ground. NYSEIA and its member companies have been deeply engaged in the IPWG and look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with DPS, NYSERDA, the utilities, and the rest of the IPWG to implement the new procedures and to continue to work on additional critical improvements to the processes for solar interconnection.”
Under the existing policy in New York state, when developers submit an application for interconnection to a utility’s distribution grid, they are placed in a pipeline while the utility studies their project to determine what upgrades to the local electric system would be required to connect the project to the grid, and how much those upgrades would cost. The presence of proposed projects ahead of an application in this “queue” can have profound impacts on the costs and timelines for interconnection whether or not the other proposed projects are ever built. Today’s decision makes a number of important changes that will increase the efficiency and transparency of this process. It requires applicants in the queue to demonstrate proof of property owner consent within 30 days so that highly speculative projects are not taking up valuable space in the queue. Additionally, it requires developers to abide by binding decision-making and payment timelines to ensure that projects move along at a reasonable pace and that non-viable projects do not forestall projects that follow in the queue from moving forward in the most efficient manner possible.
Today’s decision also takes an important first step toward more equitable distribution of grid upgrade costs among solar projects utilizing common upgrades that benefit more than one project.
“Community solar companies stand ready to invest tens of millions of dollars in private capital to upgrade public energy infrastructure – new distribution lines, new, more reliable equipment at substations – all of these upgrades benefit the solar project participants but also result in a more reliable and resilient electric grid for everyone,” Cramer said. “The cost-sharing mechanism adopted today is a first step toward a smarter way to handle those upgrades.”
“An efficient, transparent interconnection queue process and a fair way to share the costs of upgrading our electric system will be increasingly important to meeting the growing demand for community solar,” said Hannah Masterjohn, CCSA Board Chair and VP of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at community solar company Clean Energy Collective. “We appreciate the collaboration of the New York utilities in this process and we look forward to working with our colleagues across the state to bring local clean power to more New Yorkers through community solar.”
“Community solar represents an enormous opportunity to open up solar savings to New York residents. We are pleased to see the progress made by the NY PSC today.” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy.
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 New York Solar Energy Industries Association
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 | @nyseia1
Coalition for Community Solar Access: Ben Finzel, 202-277-6286, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York Solar Energy Industries Association: Valessa Souter-Kline, 215-756-5200, email@example.com