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Expanding Access to Residential Solar in the Empire State

New York is a clean energy leader, consistently in the top ten states for solar deployment. That said, New York's only statewide solar incentive needs some love.


Two solar installers collaborating on rooftop solar project.
 

New York's solar growth for the last five years has been driven by our nation-leading community solar program. A little known fact is that residential solar adoption actually peaked in New York back in 2016. While the market is growing again, 2023 is the first year that statewide residential solar installations recovered to 2016 levels.


Graph displaying growth of Upstate New York residential solar projects from 2010-2023. Data retrieved from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, January 2024.

Figure 1. Graph displaying growth of Upstate New York residential solar projects from 2010-2023. Data retrieved from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, January 2024.


This trend is most pronounced Upstate and on Long Island. New York City bucks this trend, which can be attributed to NYC's strong local incentive and high electricity rates. Last year, NYC doubled down on their commitment to rooftop solar by extending and expanding the NYC property tax abatement, raising the incentive from 20% to 30% and allowing for the inclusion of energy storage. NYC also just amended their zoning to ease permitting for solar canopies, including rooftop canopies which are common in NYC. Read more about NYC's leading solar + storage policies here.


Graph showing growth of New York City residential solar projects from 2010-2023. Data retrieved from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, January 2024.

Figure 2. Graph showing growth of New York City residential solar projects from 2010-2023. Data retrieved from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, January 2024.


New York's Upstate residential solar market is in a precarious position right now. The payback period for residential solar Upstate already exceeds ten years, and the Upstate residential solar rebate through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is nearly exhausted with no planned replenishment. When that incentive runs dry in a few months, the payback period will get even longer, putting rooftop solar out of reach for homeowners in many parts of the State.


Graph displaying payback periods for a typical residential solar project throughout different utilities in New York. Projects within Upstate New York utilities (NYSEG, RG&E, and National Grid [Niagara Mohawk]) exceed a 10 year payback period. Data retrieved from Long Island Power Authority Integrated Resource Plan, November 2023.

Figure 3. Graph displaying payback periods for a typical residential solar project throughout different utilities in New York. Projects within Upstate New York utilities (NYSEG, RG&E, and National Grid [Niagara Mohawk]) exceed a 10 year payback period. Data retrieved from Long Island Power Authority Integrated Resource Plan, November 2023.


Graph showing depleting Upstate residential solar rebate through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Data retrieved from  NYSERDA Upstate MW Block Dashboard. Accessed January 18, 2024.

Figure 4. Graph showing depleting Upstate residential solar rebate through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Data retrieved from NYSERDA Upstate MW Block Dashboard. Accessed January 18, 2024.


If New York is going to achieve its clean energy goals, we need policies and programs that support sustainable, long-term growth. We also need to ensure that New York's clean energy investments benefit low-income families and seniors. That's why New York Solar Energy Industry Association (NYSEIA) is advocating for New York to strengthen the residential solar tax credit and to ensure that the incentive is available to low-income New Yorkers. Senator Harckham and Assemblymember Walker have introduced legislation that would do just that.


If enacted, S3596C will raise the per household cap on the residential solar tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000, allow for energy storage to be included in the tax credit basis, and enable refundability for low-income households and residents of disadvantaged communities. Refundability is critical to ensure that low-income households and seniors on fixed income (with limited tax liability) are able to afford rooftop solar. Not only is this the right thing to do, modifying programs to bring clean energy benefits to low-income New Yorkers is mandated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, climate legislation that New York enacted in 2019.


New York is making bold investments in our clean energy transition. NYSEIA is calling on the New York Legislature and Governor to include S3596C in New York's 2024-2025 budget to ensure that everyday New Yorkers can afford to power their home with the sun.


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