New York extends net metering to solar projects under 750-kW, among other changes to VDER tariff

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The State of New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) issued its long-awaited order updating the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) tariff, which compensates distributed energy resources, like solar, for the collective environmental and societal benefits they provide to the state’s electrical grid.

“New York has set an ambitious goal of building enough solar to power one million homes by 2025, and the Public Service Commission’s order is one step on the path to achieving that,” said Sean Garren, Northeast Senior Director for Vote Solar.

For more than a year, the Clean Energy Parties, a coalition for clean energy industry associations,  worked with the PSC to drive the important changes. Among many changes, here are a few key improvements that directly benefit future solar projects in New York:

● Revises the method for how the value of reduced energy demand is determined, making these values more predictable for all solar projects, including projects benefiting municipalities and businesses.
● Creates a “community credit” as part of VDER, which will help ensure that all New York customers, including schools, businesses and local governments are able to participate in community solar projects.
● Extends net metering to projects under 750 kW in size, which will encourage the development of on-site solar projects serving certain commercial customers.

The Clean Energy Parties report there is more work ahead to improve the VDER tariff over the long-term, such as making changes to the way environmental values are determined and addressing billing issues, but these changes are a good first step.

“The Commission’s order will help unlock New York’s community solar market and get projects moving forward into construction across the state – creating access to solar for tens of thousands more homes and businesses,” said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “It will take continued focus from the Commission to truly transition New York’s outdated electric system into one that provides access to affordable local clean power for all New Yorkers. In particular, we look forward to working with the Commission to improve utility billing services for community solar customers to ensure a positive customer experience.”

— Solar Builder magazine

New York to provide schools with energy benchmarking services

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The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced a new program for Prekindergarten through Grade 12 schools (P-12) to receive free energy benchmarking services for up to three years. The program provides schools with a mechanism to measure, track, and assess their energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions to better understand and improve their energy efficiency and performance. This initiative supports Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal that puts New York State on a path to a carbon neutral economy and advances the state’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Funding for the energy benchmarking program is part of the state’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund and is part of NYSERDA’s $21.6 million investment in P-12 Schools Initiatives that are focused on stimulating the demand and investment in clean energy across the P-12 sector.

The opportunity

Currently, there are more than 6,000 public and private schools in New York State. Together, these schools spend roughly $1 billion in annual energy costs while producing approximately 5.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases. This initiative provides schools with the necessary tools, information, and support needed to reduce their carbon footprint.

The plan

Participating schools will receive an energy baseline assessment as well as benchmarking updates every six months that summarize the school’s utility and sustainability performance metrics over a three-year evaluation period. In addition, a NYSERDA FlexTech Consultant will provide site-specific recommendations about operational, maintenance, and energy management modifications that can result in energy and cost savings, while maximizing energy performance and assisting in financial planning and budgeting.

Eligible participants include publicly or privately-owned buildings that provide P-12 education with building space solely occupied by P-12 students and staff and locations can be in one of the six electric investor-owned New York State utility company territories. Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis dependent on resource availability until March 31, 2022.

Schools interested in adding solar to their energy mix may also be connected with the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Clean Energy Services program, which helps schools procure solar energy and reduce their energy bills. Schools receive energy advisory services, site surveys, solar energy analyses and technical support, and are matched with a solar developer to pursue installation.

“School districts are eager to save money and reduce their carbon footprints and clean, renewable solar power has proven to be an affordable, viable option,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “Participating schools are able to make a long-term commitment to fighting climate change while students learn the value of sustainability and clean energy technology. They see their school ‘going solar’ and learn by first-hand example about renewable energy.”

— Solar Builder magazine

New York hits record solar installs but will fall short of clean energy goals without VDER changes

With New York state leaders negotiating this month whether to include Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Green New Deal in the new state budget, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables released the 2018 Solar Market Insight (SMI) Report showing strong growth in New York’s solar market with 373 MW of new development last year. While the report shows steady growth to date, it also reveals that without further action from lawmakers, New York will fall well short of its clean energy goals outlined in Governor Cuomo’s state of the state.

“New data from the U.S. Solar Market Insight Year-in-Review shows New York is installing more solar than ever before,” Sean Gallagher, Vice President of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association said. “However, the pace of installations is still far from the rate needed to achieve Governor Cuomo’s ambitious new 6-Gigawatt solar goal. To increase the pace of solar deployment, the New York Public Service Commission must quickly approve recommended changes to the Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff, and the Legislature and the Governor should come together around the specifics of renewable energy legislation now pending in Albany.”

New York’s annual installment ranks No. 6 nationally, a 6-spot jump from 2017, but New York’s overall solar market ranks 10th in the nation, showing there is still room for improvement. New York overall jumped up one spot from 2017, generating over $4.7 billion in investments, and sustaining nearly 10,000 jobs at more than 850 companies across the state. That success underscores the potential for the governor’s proposed Green New Deal to continue accelerating the transition to a 100% clean energy economy.

“In order to hit the governor’s target of 6 gigawatts of distributed solar by 2025, the industry must deploy three times as much solar it has installed to date,” said Shaym Mehta, Executive Director of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association. “A stable, predictable market for solar investment is the best way to get there, making this the opportune moment for the New York legislature to codify achievable short, medium and long-term solar energy targets. Doing so would expand solar access for all New Yorkers, and put us on a path to meeting our climate and clean energy goals.”

Governor Cuomo has set a goal of 6 GW of solar installed by 2025. The report shows in 2018 the US installed 10.6 GW of solar, giving New York a roadmap to reach the Governor’s solar goals. States that saw growth created favorable environments to growth by committing to solar with codified incentives and using those to signal market favorability to solar industries. New York is expected to see growth in 2019 and 2020 due to strong community actions by state regulators.

Without legislative action, New York is unlikely to reach its goal of 6 gigawatts (GW) of distributed solar, or enough to power one million solar homes, by 2025. That goal would require significantly more annual solar development. In light of Solar Market Insight Report, the Million Solar Strong New York Coalition is calling on lawmakers to double down on its commitment to climate and clean energy leadership and codify into law Governor Cuomo’s 6GW solar goal in order to drive the regulatory and market changes needed to accelerate solar growth further.

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— Solar Builder magazine

SEIA urges New York PSC to approve VDER changes proposed in Department of Public Services white paper

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Current state of VDER in New York.

A coalition of clean energy organizations led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) filed supportive comments on the New York Department of Public Service’s (DPS) white paper regarding the future of large commercial solar and community solar projects. SEIA urged the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) to swiftly approve the paper’s recommendations and the coalition’s suggested improvements.

“The DPS’ recommendations are a critical step forward in more fairly valuing larger solar projects and spurring deployment,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at SEIA. “Many New York towns, businesses and consumers who have wanted to go solar over the past year have not been able to amidst policy uncertainty, which is why we are urging the PSC to quickly adopt these recommendations. Making these policy changes now is also vital to meeting Governor Cuomo’s goal of moving New York to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030.”

The policy, the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER), determines how distributed solar projects in New York are compensated, and the white paper will inform the PSC’s upcoming decision on potential reforms. The coalition has been seeking VDER reforms for more than a year, as the current policy has undervalued large solar projects, hampered installations and reduced the state’s job growth.

In its white paper, the DPS proposes several critical changes to the VDER policy, which the coalition supports.

  • Changing the ineffective Demand Reduction Value of the VDER tariff, which was based on 10 hours of the previous year, to a longer set of forward hours. This critical change allows solar developers to design their systems to maximize output.
  • Establishing a new “community credit” that will allow municipal, business and residential customers to participate in community solar projects, a major improvement over the status quo.

While it is critical that the PSC quickly adopts these recommendations, the coalition also urged the DPS and PSC to continue their work on other parts of the VDER policy during 2019, ensuring that residential solar projects are appropriately valued.

The coalition, named the Clean Energy Parties, includes SEIA, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York Solar Energy Industries Association, Pace Energy and Climate Center, and Vote Solar.

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The Residential Rooftop Report for the first quarter of 2019 is now available for download. The theme is “Heating Up Sales,” and we’ve teamed up with report sponsor Aurora Solar to examine ways for residential solar installation companies to lower customer acquisition costs, close more leads and overall run a more streamlined, efficient local solar business. Just fill out the form below to access your free report.

— Solar Builder magazine

Nexamp completes community solar project in Seneca, New York, part of state’s Green New Deal

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The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced the completion of Nexamp’s 2.6 MW community solar project in the Town of Seneca, N.Y., of which 1 MW will be used to provide no-cost solar subscriptions in New York State Electric and Gas Corporation’s (NYSEG) utility territory. Nexamp Seneca was one of nine projects awarded contracts last December under the first round of the state’s Solar for All program. The project supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal and proposed new mandate for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 and complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development.

Alicia Barton, President and CEO, NYSERDA said, “As New York builds on its ag-gressive efforts to combat climate change under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, NYSERDA is proud to be advancing the Solar for All program to make sure our most underserved homeowners and renters have greater access to renewable energy sources like solar. Nexamp and other Solar for All developers continue to make solar a reality for more New Yorkers.”

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Administered by NYSERDA as part of Governor Cuomo’s $1 billion NY-Sun program, the Solar for All program is designed to provide no-cost community solar to 10,000 low-income homeowners and renters in support of the state’s ongoing efforts to make re-newable energy more accessible to all New Yorkers. Solar For All offers eligible low-income households the opportunity to subscribe to a community solar project in their area without any upfront costs or participation fees. Through the Solar for All program, the Nexamp Seneca project will reserve approximately 20 percent of project capacity, up to 1 megawatt, for eligible homeowners and renters to subscribe. Today’s an-nouncement was made at a ribbon cutting for the project which will serve customers in NYSEG’s Central New York region as well as the rest of NYSEG’s utility territory.

“Making the benefits of solar accessible to everyone is core to our mission as a compa-ny,” notes Zaid Ashai, CEO of Nexamp, “so being selected as a NYSERDA Solar for All partner is a meaningful achievement for us. New York is leading the way in its commitment to carbon-free electricity, and community solar promises to be a central part of the solution. Deploying local, renewable resources that enable that all residents, regardless of income, to participate and reduce their energy costs is a goal that Nex-amp and NYSERDA share.”

Eligibility for Solar for All is based on a resident’s location, household income, and an-nual electric usage. For more information on Solar for All eligibility and to sign up, homeowners and renters are encouraged to visit: Res-idents who need help answering questions about Solar for All can email or call 1-877-NYSMART. NYSERDA will launch a second round of the program later this year, which will expand the number of house-holds and areas served.

Customers not eligible for the Solar for All program can subscribe through Nexamp di-rectly at and save 10 percent on utility costs for the life of the pro-ject.

Nexamp, which was also awarded a contract in the first round of awards for their 5.6 megawatt community solar project in the Town of Rochester in Ulster County, expects to have more than 20 community solar farms operating or under construction through-out New York by the end of 2019. The company, which owns and operates solar pro-jects across the country, addresses the entire community solar project lifecycle, from design and construction through ongoing maintenance, operations, and customer management.

— Solar Builder magazine