The Villages of Brockport and Lima entered into a tri-party agreement with Joule and Generate Capital to provide community solar to residents on an opt out basis. Part of Joule’s Finger Lakes Community Choice program, the opt-out community solar program will be rolled out to 3,800+ households across the two upstate New York municipalities. Expected to launch this year, this program will be the first opt-out community solar program in the United States.
Generate teamed up with 38 Degrees North to acquire from top developers the solar projects in the area that will provide residents 17 million kWh of solar power for 25 years. Joule, the program administrator, has been supporting the development of a community choice program in the Villages since early 2017, including the provision of public outreach and public education on the opportunities for both electricity supply and community solar. Joule is the only program administrator with approval from the State to integrate community solar and electricity supply in a community choice offering.
Opt-out explained: The opt-out community-level agreement ensures equal access to the benefits of community distributed generation from renewable sources—including electricity bill savings made possible by NY State incentives for renewable energy generation. Both low- and high-income households have access to these benefits on equal terms.
This first-of-kind opt-out community solar program and the signing of the tri-party agreements delivers participants a guaranteed 10% savings on solar credits without requiring them to sign an individual contract, undergo a credit check, pay a second bill for solar, or install solar panels on their home or property. As such, the program is the first community choice aggregation in NY State to serve low-income consumers.
As part of the community choice program designed by Joule and approved by DPS on September 3, 2020, the two municipalities signed a community-level tri-party agreement on behalf of their residents and small businesses, enabling eligible account holders to be automatically enrolled in the program with any credits or charges accounted for on the consumer’s National Grid electricity bill. The credits, and the resulting electricity bill savings, are supplemental to any benefits delivered by a community choice electricity supply program.
Opt-out community solar not only reduces carbon emissions, but it also moves NY State closer to achieving its clean energy goals. While benefiting communities and residents, opt-out community solar also provides significant benefits to solar project developers. Opt-out community solar effectively guarantees the solar developer all the generated electricity output will be purchased without any need to solicit interest or market to each potential individual customer. The municipal-level agreement essentially ensures that subscribers have been secured in advance, thereby fostering an environment that allows for at-scale development of solar projects throughout NY State.
National Grid will continue to deliver electricity to all residents and remains responsible for repairs, maintenance, and service. Residents can opt out of the program at any time with no penalty, but would lose the guaranteed 10% price reductions on the solar bill credits that lower their annual electricity costs.
“Implementing community choice aggregation has been a goal that the Village of Lima has been working on for four years,” stated Lima Mayor John Wadach. “Thanks to the support and expertise of Joule and its local partner Roctricity, we are excited to bring renewable energy at a cost savings to our residents. Although our residents will not have to take any action to receive the savings on their National Grid bills, those of us on the Village Board know how much work with State regulators and utilities that Joule undertook to make this a reality.”
— Solar Builder magazine