Shared renewables for all, coming soon to New York

Earlier this week, NRDC along with its coalition partners, comprised of 57 environmental organizations, social justice groups, businesses, and faith communities, submitted recommendations to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) that can help make solar power and other distributed renewables accessible to New Yorkers of all income levels who want these technologies, but can't install them where they live and/or work, through offsite shared renewables projects. One thing we're particularly proud of is that our ideas, if implemented, can finally enable the Empire State's low- and moderate-income residents to more fully share in clean energy's bounty: in the energy cost-savings, the cleaner air, the good jobs, the community development, and the climate-change mitigation that happens when we deploy solar and other kinds of renewable energy across the state. Low- and moderate-income consumers face particular obstacles in installing these clean energy resources, because, often, they live in rental housing where landlords make the energy decisions, or they may have poor credit ratings that can prevent financing of new renewable technologies. Our recommendations are straight-forward and simple--part of an overall effort to get New York State to produce 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025--and we have confidence that they can assist the PSC in designing programs that will help electric consumers at all income levels, and in any type of housing, share in clean power.

Shared Solar

Building on solar's overwhelming popularity with the American people, the shared solar movement is taking off across the country. It's a movement that makes sense: approximately 75 percent of Americans can't install solar where they live, either because of poor solar resources, such as trees that block the sunlight falling on a roof, because they rent their homes, or other obstacles. Already, 10 states have created programs and/or enacted legislation that help individuals, families and businesses who want to participate in offsite solar arrays, and there are efforts in more states in the works. But New York's program, now being developed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the PSC, could be one of the first with a mandate to include low- and moderate consumers. With our recommendations, New York's program would involve the largest proportion of these consumers: 20 percent of the total residential participants.

How would it work? To begin with, the program would be flexible and allow interested consumers to participate by subscribing to offsite arrays, or to buy a portion of an array as an owner, and then get credit on their electric bills for the power generated. The New York Green Bank, other financial institutions, or charitable groups, could underwrite credit support for low- and moderate-income folks, in coordination with non-profit and for-profit solar project developers. And NYSERDA, which develops and administers many of the state's clean energy programs, could offer funding for technical support and pilot projects that reach low- and moderate-income consumers.

These shared arrays offer electricity at costs that are already competitive with conventional, grid supplied power (and will be increasingly cheaper in coming years), while also reducing the pollution that is driving climate change and harming public health. And, they can be deployed in ways that increase the grid's stability and reliability, in places where demand is high and transmission capacity is constrained.

We're proud to have helped convene this diverse and extraordinary coalition of organizations, faith communities and businesses from across the state in submitting comments to the PSC that can help make clean power accessible to everyone. It's part of our goal to help New York lead the nation in clean energy by creating a state renewable energy standard that mandates that 50 percent of our electricity come from clean sources by 2025. And we're encouraged by the PSC's fast-tracking of the community solar proceeding as it rethinks the ways New York generates, supplies and distributes electricity, as part of the Reforming the Energy Vision process.

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