Diverse Coalition Supports ‘Shared Renewables’ Program for Expanding Renewable Energy Access to Low Income New Yorkers
Albany, NY - April 7, 2015 - As the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) considers establishing a program, called Community Net Metering, to allow expanded access to clean energy, a diverse coalition representing community, social justice, business, and environmental interests has formed to show their support. The coalition is calling for an innovative program that would empower low-income families, renters and millions of other New Yorkers to choose solar, wind or other renewable energy sources for the first time. With the cost of solar dropping by the day and a boom in state solar employment, such an expansion could represent significant economic growth. Today 57 organizations submitted their joint recommendations to the PSC for expanding clean energy access in the state.
"Solar is shining in New York and bringing new jobs, a more reliable electric system and a stronger economy along with it. Still, the traditional panels-on-your-roof approach simply doesn't work for a majority of New Yorkers. Families who rent, who have low credit scores or who lack significant savings face real barriers, yet those same families have the most to gain from the utility bill savings of affordable solar power. It's exciting to see New York make bold strides toward connecting these consumers with clean energy options for the first time," said Sean Garren, Northeast Regional Manager for Vote Solar, a national solar advocacy organization.
New York ranks among the nation's solar leaders, yet a majority of the state's energy consumers - including renters, families and businesses in multi-unit buildings, and homeowners with shaded roofs - are unable to invest in their own rooftop solar energy systems. Low-income consumers who lack access to financing face additional barriers to solar participation. Following through on Governor Andrew Cuomo's commitment to expand access to renewable energy, the PSC is working to establish an innovative Shared Renewables program - also called Community Net Metering - that would overcome these traditional barriers by allowing energy customers to subscribe to a local renewable energy project and receive a utility bill credit for their portion of the energy produced. A well-designed Shared Renewables program would empower more New Yorkers to participate directly in the state's clean energy economy and speed the transition to a sustainable and reliable energy system.
"New York can be a critical leader in the fight against climate change by creating opportunities for all to participate in renewable energy. But the State must do more. The fact is, too many communities, particularly low-income and communities of color, bear the brunt of our dirty energy system and are being locked out of renewable energy investments. This makes it harder for all of us to have the tools to fight climate change and build our local economy. This is why the Public Service Commission should take our recommendations, which would enable these communities to participate directly in our growing solar economy and speed our much-needed transition to a more just energy system," said Anthony Giancatarino, Director of Policy and Strategy with The Center for Social Inclusion.
"Community net metering is a concept whose time has come, and Solar One is ready to help deliver on its promise. In anticipation of the Public Service Commission approving a strong program, our Here Comes Solar initiative is already working with community partners in Brooklyn and Harlem to develop pilot shared solar projects that will provide lower-cost electricity to low-income local renters. We see shared solar as one of the most promising strategies for simultaneously creating economic opportunities and reducing environmental burdens on low-income communities of color across the city," said Elana Bulman, Program Manager, Here Comes Solar, a project of Solar One.
"With over 90 projects built or under development across 8 states and 18 utilities, we have seen firsthand the positive impacts community solar brings to local communities," said Tom Hunt, Vice President of Corporate Development at Clean Energy Collective, the nation's largest community solar developer. "We commend Governor Cuomo for his leadership and encourage the Public Service Commission to finalize the program, so we can begin to give more New Yorkers the chance to choose affordable clean energy."
The coalition strongly supports the PSC's goal of expanding access to clean energy, including solar and wind power, to all New Yorkers. In order for the program to fully deliver on this promise, the coalition recommends that low-income households should represent at least 20% of residential participants in the program. The groups recommended that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) be tasked with establishing policies and programs to meet this standard for low-income participation, including:
1. Credit support for low- and moderate-income customers through the Green Bank or Clean Energy Fund;
2. A program to develop a sustainable low-income market for shared renewable energy through pilot projects, technical assistance and effective and market adjusting incentives to encourage low-income participation; and,
3. An option to allocate existing electricity assistance funds towards a shared renewable energy subscription.
New York Shared Renewables has support from a diverse and growing group of organizations, businesses and individuals, including Vote Solar, Center for Social Inclusion, Solar One, Clean Energy Collective, Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, PUSH Buffalo, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Community Energy, among others.