As NY agencies ramp solar incentives for underserved communities, critical bill awaits Governor’s signature
September 22, 2021
In this second of a two-part series, Edison Energy sat down with Shyam Mehta, Executive Director of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA), to discuss New York’s push to expand community solar access to disadvantaged communities.
In June, the New York State Legislature passed cross-utility crediting legislation, which allows customers in any utility territory to join a community solar project located anywhere in the state. The bill aims to increase access to community distributed generation projects, particularly for the city’s underserved communities.
Under current rules, community solar subscribers can only enroll in projects that are located in their utility service territory. This has proved to be one of the primary barriers to community solar, with a critical discrepancy between penetration in Upstate and Western New York territories versus Long Island and New York City, where most of the state’s population—and specifically most of its low-to middle-income (LMI) population–is based.
The majority of both operational and pipeline community solar project capacity in New York is concentrated in Upstate and Western New York, which constituted 78 percent and 90 percent of operational and pipeline capacity, respectively, at the end of 2020.
In contrast, the equivalent figures in Downstate territories stood at four percent and five percent, respectively. This is primarily due to the lack of siting potential for ground-mounted projects in the downstate region.
“There is very little siting potential,” Mehta said. “There is little to none on the ground and even roof space is significantly constrained for multiple reasons. Unless you actually allow New York City residents to subscribe to community solar projects outside of Con Ed territory, you will never come close to providing community solar for any meaningful fraction of New York City residents. If there was an easier way, we wouldn’t be talking about cross-utility crediting.”
While NYSEIA continues to advocate for the bill, uncertainty around the state’s community solar future remains until the legislation is signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“The hang-up there is that the PSC and the DEP are opposed because they are concerned about the complexity and cost of implementing the kind of backend IT systems necessary to actually implement cross-utility crediting,” Mehta said. “New York needs to get the different IT systems to talk to each other to transfer credits from one territory to another. That is why Gov. Cuomo did not sign it, and that is where we still stand as of today. We’ve been in meetings with the Governor’s office to continue to lobby for the passage of the bill. Yes, it will not be a trivial task to implement the IT systems, but that is not a good enough reason not to do this.”
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