Major Outpouring of Support for Solar in New York As Decision Now Rests with the State Public Service Commission

With the force of over 16,500 New Yorkers voicing their support for more solar in New York State, today we joined our clean energy and environmental partners in filing formal comments with the New York Public Service Commission (NY PSC) in strong support toward extending Governor Cuomo's successful NY-Sun program for a full 10 years, aiming to achieve at least 3 gigawatts of solar for a $150 million annual state investment through 2023.

New York State continues to make important steps that show a continued commitment to a diverse clean energyportfolio—a portfolio that includes robust support not only for solar, but also other renewable technologies large and small, as well as energy efficiency. All of these resources must be supported in order to fully transition to a clean energy future; one in which the unique strengths of each resource collectively results in a cleaner and more resilient energy system.

The benefits of solar and extending the NY-Sun program are far reaching: 

Jobs: Over 5,000 individuals are now employed in the solar industry throughout New York State, thanks in large measure to the successful start of the NY-Sun program that begin in earnest in 2012. We expect many thousands of additional jobs as the NY-Sun extension ramps up solar even more over the coming years.

Cheaper Energy Bills: The sun is strongest in the summer, which is when New Yorkers demand the most energy to keep cool. 3 gigawatts of new solar capacity, in which a large percentage will be located at or near its demand, e.g. solar rooftops, holds the potential to reliably meet upwards of 9% of summer peak when electricity is most expensive, most polluting and delivery least efficient.

Environment and Public Health: -benefits are substantial with estimates well into the hundreds of millions of dollar by helping to mitigate environmental risk factors (that include smog and acid rain-forming air pollution, particulate matter, mercury, and climate disrupting carbon emissions) associated with today’s ongoing practice of combusting fossil fuel – coal, oil and gas – for energy production to meet the majority of New York State’s energy demands.

The goal: to scale up of the solar industry in New York State through a market-flexible, transparent and clear policy design that is performance-based, cost effective and fair to all market participants and which will ultimately step back (to zero) as the industry steps up. 

The program design, referred to as the "Megawatt Block" by wonks like myself and which is now before the NY PSC for final approval is modeled after the successful solar deployment program in California known as the California Solar Initiative (CSI). I briefly described how the CSI worked here. Just how has the CSI done? 

California set out to deploy nearly 2,000 MW of solar from 2007 through 2016 through the CSI with the top line objective to transform the market for solar energy systems so that it is price competitive and self-sustaining. At the end of Q1 2013, CSI had supported an estimated 1,629 MW across the state and is well positioned to achieve its goals and objectives early, having completed its incentives schedule in two of three major utility service territories. Notably, despite incentives having ramped to zero in these service territories the California solar market remains robust and continues to rank first in the nation in terms of quarterly solar PV deployment.

Decision Time: We are confident that in just a few short weeks the Commission will motion to approve the NYSERDA petition for an extended NY-Sun program. Doing so will cement New York’s position as a national leader on solar, and result in the emissions reductions, job creation, and economic benefits the state's clean energy programs including the renewable portfolio standard were established to create. We appreciate this opportunity to comment, and look forward to continuing to work with NYSERDA and the Commission to adopt and implement this groundbreaking program.

About the Authors

Pierre Bull

Policy Analyst, Energy & Transportation program

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